Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Domaine de la Mordoree Lirac, 1998

Lirac is located only 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) west of Chateauneuf du Pape, and the two appellations have similar soils. Yet Lirac wines have a distinct personality, frankly fruity but with a substantial texture and an ability to gain nuances with aging up to 10 years or so (versus 15 to 30 for Chateauneuf du Pape).

Established in 1986 by the Delorme brothers, Christophe and Fabrice, Domaine de la Mordoree has quickly established itself as a premier producer of both Lirac and Chateauneuf du Pape. While maintaining respect for terroir and embracing at least some biodynamic principles, the estate has also invested in state-of-the-art equipment and uses new oak for its top cuvees of Lirac and Chateauneuf du Pape--both labeled Cuvee de la Reine des Bois. This wine, the lower level Lirac (50% Grenache, 50% Syrah), is produced with basically traditional methods, although with de-stemming. The domaine lists its aging potential at four to five years, so I have kept this bottle a bit long, even for an outstanding vintage such as 1998. But it is nevertheless showing very well.

The color is a medium ruby, bright and clear, with some sediment forming. From first sniff, it's wonderfully fruity and spicy--raspberries, dark cherries, violets and garrigue--still fresh with no sign of attenuation. There is deceptive depth and concentration. In the mouth, the wine has a velvety texture--soft on the surface but with deep layers of fruit underneath. Long finish. Very fine.

If I were to base my 2007 Southern Rhone purchases on the quality and staying power demonstrated in the last outstanding vintage (1998), this wine would be on my buying list. Price, however, for me, is always a consideration, and particularly so in this economic climate. The tag on this 1998 reads $9.29; the retail price for the 2007 release is $24.99. Ouch. I'll be looking more seriously at my No. 2 selelction from Lirac, Chateau Segries, where the price increase has been less steep.


  1. Fred, I've been looking up some of the producers you mentioned. You have really good taste, according to the suppliers I've spoken with.

    Do you tend to prefer more of a specific varietal in your wines? Or does a specific kind of flavor appeal to you?

    Also, what is the difference between a Vin de Pays and a Vin de Terrasses?


  2. As you might guess, Eric, I'm partial to Grenache from the Southern Rhone and Spain. Not that it's a better wine grape than Cabernet, Pinot Noir or Nebbiolo, but it's to my taste when the wine is produced from low yielding vines and not exposed to new oak. Most California and Australian Grenache wines are jammy because of high yields and new oak.

    I like Grenache to show ripe strawberry/blueberry flavors and aromas countered by spice, pepper and fresh herbs. When it aqes, as in a good Chateauneuf du Pape, it takes on tones of dried fruits and flowers.

    Vin de Pays means country wine and it's a fairly low appellation. Vin de Pays de Vaucluse can come from anywhere in Vaucluse--a big region. And it should be inexpensive, although there are many very Vin de Pays wines (such as those of Vieux Chene) on my buy list. Vin de Terrasses has me stumped. It may mean organic. On what label did you see the term?

  3. Fred, I believe I might share your preference. I had thought (or been told) that the jammy Grenache were from old vines. Didn't quite sound right.

    Most of the Spanish Grenache I've had has been a bit astringent. Is this your experience?

    Also, if one were to venture into a couple of Chateaneuf du Papes, which would be more of a Grenache base? Would a 2005 have "shut down" as you put it once?


  4. Well, I'm drawing a distinction between "ripe" and "jammy." Strawberries and blueberries are naturally sweet, and that's why I like them. Add too much sugar, and they become jammy and the flavors less delineated. Spanish Grenache can be a bit astringent, more like briar or underbrush. If garrigue is the smell of the Provencal countryside, maybe this is the equivalent quality from Spain. Or it may have something to do with the way the wine is made or when the grapes are picked.

    Some Chateauneufs are 100% Grenache. Rayas is the prime example, and it is very highly rated but also very expensive. So I've never had more than a taste or so of Rayas. Then there are Henri Bonneau--also expensive and nearly impossible to find--and Mourre de Tendre. I haven't tried Bonneau but Mourre de Tendre (described by Parker as a Bonneau-like wine) did not please me. It wasn't so much jammy as raisined--similar to many 2003 Southern Rhone wines. Domaine de la Janasse has a 100% Grenache cuvee, Chaupoin, that sells at a premium and is probably very good.

    I can be happy with less than 100% Grenache, and there are plenty of very good Chateauneufs with Grenache character--Bois du Boursan, Pegau, Vieux Donjon, Clos des Papes, Fortia, Clos Mont Olivet, Clefs d'Or, Grand Tinel, Hautes des Terres Blanches (listed in rough order of my preference).

    I have read that many 2005s, even CDR Villages, have shut down temporarily. But it's a matter of degree, and one thing I like about Grenache is that it shows pretty well from day one. I doubt that a 2005 Bois du Boursan or Fortia would disappoint you right now--can't say for sure without trying one. Pegau usually requires some aging, although Laurence Feraud (the winemaker at Pegau) says she always drinks and enjoys her wines when they are young. It's not the same as trying to drink 2005 Chateau Latour (or any Bordeaux first growth), which probably would not taste as good at this stage as a cheap 2005 Bordeaux.

    2004 Chateauneuf would probably be more open and ready to drink, but the vintage is a bit more reserved by nature. 2003s I would not recommend, and older vintages that have been sitting in a shop for six or eight years are not safe bets. As I mentioned before, though, you can buy aged Chateauneufs online at WineBid or HDH Wines (Hart Davis Hart), and many are real bargains considering current prices.

  5. Fred,
    Why do you not recommend the 2003 CNDP? Is it too closed as yet or do you think it's already passed it? I'm worried as I took a punt on a 2003 Janasse on Ebay there.

  6. I really haven't tried any 2003 Chateauneuf du Papes, at least that I can remember. (I may have had one or two at an Ann Arbor Wine Club tasting.) But I have had mixed success with lower level 2003s. The Guigal Cotes du Rhone was one of my favorites, but some others, such as 2003 Chateau du Trignon Rasteau (a $20 wine), I found almost undrinkable.

    Parker gave high ratings to the 2003 vintage, and some of the Chateauneufs from that vintage zoomed in price. Some posters on Parker's wine board ( have disagreed strongly, arguing that the vintage was too warm, producing over-ripe grapes and a raisined quality in many (not all) of the wines. That's what I found in the Trignon Rasteau and a few other 2003s I tried. And every one I tried had a lifted, minty quality to the aromas that I didn't like. Other tasters that I respect immensely like this quality and think more highly of the 2003s than I do.

    It's a bias on my part (shared by others), and clearly it can't be applied as a blanket statement. But I have steered away from 2003s for that reason, and that's why I can't recommend them to others.

    Janasse makes a very good Chateauneuf. I haven't tried the 2003 but the 1989 Vieilles Vignes was excellent a couple of years ago.

  7. Fred,
    Thank you very much for your knowledgeable response. I look forward to going through the rest of your notes.



  8. I can be happy too with this blog, and most of the wine lovers can say the same thing. I would not recommend, and older vintages that have been sitting in a shop for six or eight years are not safe bets.