Some of the best – and best-priced – red Rhone blends lie in Lirac region across the river from Châteauneuf-du-Pape, and the region continues to improve as more of Châteauneuf’s fabled producers set up shop there. And like Châteauneuf, Lirac’s reds are blends, chiefly of Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.
The wines are fragrant and well-balanced, yet they also have subtle power and can age for decades in the cellar. We lead off The Dozen with three enjoyable representatives. Additionally, we have five wines from Sicily that are not to be missed.
Let the uncorking and the cap twisting begin!
2018 Ogier “Lou Carminé” Lirac ($18). Creamy, smooth purple fruitiness with some mellow chocolate, but still with a fairly lean structure.
2017 Domaine d’Arbousset Lirac ($25). Almost lyrical fragrances and flavors with vibrant blueberries blending into earthy chocolate notes and dusty tannins with the impact of a denser wine. Highly recommended.
2020 Roger Sabon Lirac ($25). Very lively and rich in flavor, similar to the d’Arbousset but a touch more genteel. Again, highly recommended.
2021 Sallier de La Tour Sicilia White Wine ($16). Enjoyable, fragrant wine that blends almost candied fruit with herbal flavors in a lean presentation.
2020 Xanadu Margaret River Chardonny ($18). Light-bodied, with flavors of green apples that are lightly creamy, lightly chalky.
2019 Catena Alta “Historic Rows” Mendoza Chardonnay (36). Good structure and balance – very enjoyable ripe apple flavors with just a hint of vanilla bean and tart apples skins in the finish.
2021 Sallier de La Tour Sicilia Syrah Rosé ($21). Refreshing tangy and tart red fruit flavors with metallic minerality and good finishing acidity.
2020 Sallier de La Tour Sicilia Nero d’Avola ($16). Well-integrated red fruits with a finish of dusty tannins.
2020 Sallier de La Tour Sicilia Syrah ($16). Smooth and creamy red and black fruits, but they don’t quite knit together, and the finish is a bit unpolished.
2019 Château de Rouanne Vinsobres ($35). Another lovely wine from the Southern Rhone with rich red and black fruits with some chocolate flavors, a very long and pleasant aftertaste and a granular texture.
2019 Sallier de La Tour “La Monaca” Sicilia Syrah ($35). Nice red berry flavors – light, lean, a little gamey and long on the palate with dusty tannins. A good food wine.
2020 Mathews “Claret” Columbia Valley Red Wine ($50). Lovely aromas, soft and complex on the palate with flavors of plumy fruits, chestnuts, chocolate, pencil lead and with drying tannins in the finish.
Prices listed are generally SRP or from wine-searcher.com. As more wineries are now shipping direct-to-consumer, check the winery website if you can’t find a bottle in your retail store.
Feature photo by Christophe Grilhé.