Mourvèdre needs plenty of heat to ripen, and is therefore grown only in the warmest parts of the Southern Rhône, as well as being widely planted in Spain (where it’s usually known as ‘Monastrell’). Given the essential heat, and the care needed to extract its character, it adds a little black fruit, but also ‘animal’ or ‘leather’ notes. And leather is one of the things that the label on La Marlerie tells you to expect.
Lirac is a small appellation in the Southern Rhône, one that probably has the potential to match many Chateauneuf du Pape wines in both style and quality, without matching the (often inflated) price tag. So having established that the much more common Côtes du Rhône Villages appellation can provide great value for as little as £5 a bottle, I was interested to find out what Lirac could deliver for an extra £3.
Bear in mind that there’s an extra grape in the blend here. Your £5 bottle of Côtes du Rhône Village is probably mainly Grenache with a little Syrah thrown in. This Lirac has some Mourvèdre thrown into the mix.
My first sampling disappointed me a little. Fruit yes, but that’s about it. My mistake though, not the wine’s. The next day, after taking more care to aerate it, the fruit developed further still but was now also accompanied by a tang of liquorice and well, a subtle touch of leather.
Since Grenache is still the main component of the blend, the tannins and acidity are both fairly gentle on the palate. This makes for a smooth, easy drinking style of wine, despite the high alcohol content (15%!) and rich flavours.
As for food matching, a bit of a no-brainer really. Pour a glass to go with your next beef roast, or perhaps a lasagne, and enjoy a classic comfort food and wine combination.
At £8, La Marlerie certainly offers good value, and perhaps even questions the purpose of the cheaper Chateauneufs. Sadly, Morrisons have sold out of the 2011 vintage. I’m hoping the next vintage is released soon (and that they’re kind enough to keep the price down).