Lirac? Yes, Lirac. It's an appellation in France's southern Rhone valley. Sitting across the river from (and very much in the proverbial shadow of) the famous Chateauneuf-du-Pape region, Lirac doesn't get much of the limelight. Which is exactly the right kind of region to explore. Here's why:
- Neighboring notoriety. Every famous winegrowing region has boundaries, which means it also has abutting neighbors whose climate, soils, and weather just aren't all that different. Producers on the inside of these regions would argue that they are, but there's gerrymandering in the drawing of appellation lines, too.
- Bargains. Love those CDP's but can't swing the big price tags? Lirac can get you a junior version at a fraction of the cost. You can pick up an entry level Lirac for as little as $13 while the better ones (such as the heart-tugging Domaine Mordoree) top out at Chateauneuf-du-Pape's ground floor (+/- $35.)
- Consistency. Anytime I see a Lirac on the shelf, I grab a bottle and have yet to be disappointed even once. Reds from the region are (by law) grenache-dominated blends with syrah and mourvedre, which together must account for at least 90% of the juice. These are the Rhone's workhorses, and when grown in Lirac, have proved time and time again to provide full-bodied freshness with mid-weight structure and intensity. Lip-smacking good.
There are 50-ish producers in this relatively small region, none terribly large, so availability is spotty. Savvy consumers won't hesitate next time one shows up.