Food & Drink

Wine, etc.: Lirac wines from Southern Rhone Valley deliver quality and good value | COMMENTARY

Lirac is not as well known as its neighbors Chateauneuf du Pape or even Vacqueras and Gigondas. Yet these wines from the Southern Rhone Valley are on par in quality and represent great values.

About 85% of the wines from Lirac are red with grenache, syrah and mourvedre most popular. The whites are made from clairette, grenache blanc and bourboulenc.


Lirac wines, first exported in 1737 from the region,were the first to sport a Cotes Du Rhone brand on their barrels to assure quality to consumers. Unfortunately, legend decrees that the devastating phylloxera pest that destroyed all of European grape growing and winemaking originated from vines imported into Lirac in the 1860s.

While tasting the red wines from Lirac we detected a similarity with those from Chateauneuf du Pape. A bold, baked-berry fruit quality was apparent but mingled with fresh fruit notes to create a unique style. Checking a wine map of the region gave us clarity. Chateauneuf du Pape is adjacent to Lirac to the west and grows the same mix of grapes. Lirac’s and Chateauneuf du Pape’s vineyards are covered with smooth river rocks, making grape growing one of the few suitable agricultural uses for the land.


Chateau Mont-Redon White Lirac 2020 ($25-30) is quite impressive. Pear notes dominated the wine with a distinctive mineral streak in both the nose and mouth. A lovely honey finish completed the package.

We also liked Chateau De Montfaucon Rosé Lirac 2021 ($15-18) that expressed an appealing strawberry cream note demanding another sip. It is a perfect wine to enjoy all by itself.

Ogier Lou Camine Lirac Rouge 2018 ($19) exhibited a deep, rich expression of baked berry fruits and a hint of herbs. Very impressive.

Domaine La Loyane Cuvee Marie Lirac Rouge 2019 ($34) was another impressive example of red wines from Lirac. Deep and rich with notes of berries, licorice, and cacao.

Roger Sabon Lirac Rouge 2020 ($25) was an outstanding example of what Lirac is capable of producing. Ripe plum, cherries and a hint of licorice create a wonderfully drinkable red wine.

Domaine La Font De Notre Dame Lirac Rouge 2020 ($25) had plum, cherry and berry notes evident in a very clean, straightforward style.

Georgian wines

Mention Georgian wine to most American wine consumers and you will either get a blank look or the assumption you are referring to the state of Georgia’s 40-plus wineries.

Many of these wineries produce muscadine grape wine and fruit wines, although more are migrating to producing dry wines from vinifera grapes. Winemaking accompanied European settlers several hundred years ago.


The country of Georgia, located on the European/Asian border, was recently part of the Soviet Union, but is now independent. Georgia is about the size of South Carolina and only has a population of about 3.7 million people. It is an ancient grape-growing area that claims to host archeological evidence of indigenous winemaking dating back to 6000 B.C.

Up until now Georgia’s most notable claim to fame was as the birthplace of Joseph Stalin, brutal dictator of the USSR from the 1920s until his death in 1953, something you don’t see publicized in Georgian tourist travel publications.

As part of the Soviet Union, Georgian wines were valued above wine produced in other parts of the country. However, collectivization and 1980s anti-alcohol campaigns under the Soviets harmed overall quality. Independence from the USSR in the 1990s has allowed a market driven quality-oriented wine industry to thrive and today we are seeing he results.

We recently tasted a selection of Georgian wines and came away impressed. Their strengths were in three areas: sparkling wines, orange wines and the superstar of Georgian red grapes, saperavi. The prices for the most part are modest and offer a good quality to price ratio.

Wines are most often made in clay quevri that are frequently buried in the ground. The quevri somewhat resemble ancient Greek amphora.

Following are our impressions of the wines we tasted:


Nekrisi Winery Mtsvane Estate Pet-Nat Saperavi Rosé Georgia 2021 ($29). Pet-Nat refers to the winemaking method whereby the wine is bottled before fermentation has finished, thus creating bubbles. This is a terrific sparkler featuring a beautiful pinkish color appealing bright cherry fruit notes in a dry style.

Glekhuri Kisi Quevri Amber Wine Kakheti Teliani Valley Georgia 2019 ($20). Amber wines are made by allowing crushed white grapes to stay in contact with their skins, seeds and stems during fermentation and aging. Made from the kisi grape, one of more than 500 Georgian grapes grown in Georgia, this wine can be an acquired taste. Deep golden color, palate cleansing tannins a slight resiny flavor and medium fruit.

Vardiashuili Rkatsiteli Amber Wine Georgia 2020 ($20). Made in clay quevri, this amber wine got our attention. Very floral with soft tannins and ample fruit. Pleasant and quaffable.

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Gozauri Saperavi Aged in French Oak Barrels 2015 ($21-25). Deep plummy berry fruit, very grapey. Our least favorite of the saperavi wines.

Brothers Khutsishvili Mariani Saperavi Unfiltered Quevri Kakheti 2016 ($20). Our favorite of the tasting, this was an amazingly good wine that reminded us of a well-made cabernet sauvignon. Beautiful black cherry and plum fruit notes and a hint of cedar.

Zenishi Saperavi Quevri Kakheti 2018 ($20). A very nice showcase for the saperavi grape and our second favorite of the tasting.


Wine picks

Aia Vecchia “Lagone” IGT 2019 ($17). We enjoyed this soft and alluring super Tuscan, the flagship of this producer. It is a blend of merlot, cabernet sauvignon and cabernet franc — hardly indigenous grapes but reflecting the potential of these grapes in Italian soil. Cherry and dried rosemary aromas with flavors of plum, black cherries and a hint of vanilla.

Domaine Wachau Gruner Veltliner Federspiel Terrassen 2021 ($18). We’ve seen this wine for as little as $14, which makes it a steal. Made entirely of gruner veltliner grapes, this Austrian wine has big and bold citrus and green apple notes cloaked in fresh acidity. It’s a great apertif or a wine to serve with chicken and fish.

Sandhi Sanford & Benedict Pinot Noir 2019 ($45). Delicious is the best way to describe this Sta. Rita Hills pinot noir. Soft, round with juicy black cherry flavors.

Tom Marquardt and Patrick Darr have been writing a weekly, syndicated wine column since 1985. See their blog at They can be reached at