Posted by: tomciocco | January 3, 2011

THE IRON MAN OF THE WILD SOUTHWEST

Of all the wine regions in a country with LOTS of them, France’s southwest is the one that might hide the most secrets. For me, one of the coolest and best kept of these secrets is the appellation of Marcillac. Set in a rugged and rocky area just south of the Massif Central, Marcillac is an isolated place in the marches between the Gascon and Occitan cultures, so it seems fitting that such a wonderfully peculiar place would be home to one of France’s most characterful and quirky grapes, with a name to match: none other than Fer Servadou.

The first half of this vine’s name is a testament to how well it has adapted to its harsh terroir – “fer” is clearly rooted in the latin word for iron, which in this case refers to the notable hardness of the wood of the vine’s trunk and arms. And though Fer Servadou also plays a small role in other appellations like Madiran, where it is called Pinenc, and in Gaillac, where it is known as Braucol, nowhere is this proudly odd grape given such pride of place – Fer must comprise at least 90% of the total blend in Marcillac with the balance to be filled by the two Cabernets, and Merlot.

Though a wine like this an obvious perfect partner for the gutsy, stick-to-your-ribs southwestern French classic dishes like cassoulet or roasted goose, We were due for a foray into the Levant (culinarily), so I served this wine with a Black Sea Turkish dish of collard greens smothered with peppers, tomatoes, and rice topped with garlic-yogurt sauce, and then hummus scattered with crumble-cooked ground lamb with onions, pine nuts, and spices, with some olives one the side, and some Turkish pide from the bakery in Paterson.

Domaine du Cros Marcillac 2009

Brilliant, moderately saturated crimson/garnet color. The nose is a bundle of direct aromas of toasted bread, wild berries, dusty earth, cracked black pepper, cloves, molasses, and medicinal herbs. The wine has a medium body with a spunky acid\tannin balance that pops with flavors of leaves and sap, mixed with sweet plum and blackberry fruit which rolls into smooth and juicy cherry cordial flavors. A bitterish and intense black licorice flavor lingers long on the finish. A rustically exotic wine.

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