The wines of Lirac are less celebrated than their Southern Rhône siblings and are worthy of wider recognition but the great thing for wine consumers is that they remain inordinately good value with a 'très bon rapport qualité-prix'. Richard Maby is a savvy and skilled wine-maker who is pursuing a strategy of pragmatic modernisation at this renowned, family-run estate. Richard does not want to radically alter the style of the domaine's wines from those that his father and grandfather produced but he is keen to invest in new equipment and maximise the qualitative potential of every vintage.
Having lost 40% of his potential 2017 crop to drought, Richard was relieved to be blessed with a more abundant harvest in 2018. A fine finish to the growing season yielded really healthy fruit that has produced some excellent wines. Another positive development at this long-serving enclave of excellence is some welcome re-branding with more minimalist labels.
Richard’s Lirac blanc is made from a blend of Grenache Blanc and Clairette enriched with some Viognier and given freshness by Piquepoul. It has yellow stone fruit scents and flavours offset by zestier citrus notes and a long, clean finish. If you look at what is being charged for white Châteauneuf-du-Pape, made 12 kilometres to the east, it is a veritable bargain. His popular Lirac rosé, now in a smart Bordelaise bottle, is made from 70% Cinsault and 30% Grenache Noir. It has a pale ‘onionskin’ robe, an inviting raspberry and redcurrant bouquet and a crisp soft red fruit palate. Completing a commendable triumvirate is the rich and rounded red Lirac, usually blended from 70% Grenache Noir, 20% Syrah and 10% Mourvèdre, but 2017’s poor Grenache harvest saw a higher proportion of the latter two grapes making up the shortfall. With a wealth of juicy dark garrigue berry fruit, supple tannins and spicy undertones it drinks well from release but will cellar well for 3-5+ years.