Posted by: tomciocco | June 5, 2013


Though officially included under the French geographic rubric “The Southwest”, the Marcillac appellation is actually pretty far removed from the other southwestern French wine regions under which it is always included. The Marcillac region sits at the southern feet of the large knot of mountains and extinct volcanoes called the Massif Central, that includes some peaks that rise well over 4,500 feet above sea level. And though none of the vineyards within Marcillac’s perimeter are situated at those altitudes, many of them are found between 1,500 and 2,000 feet above sea level. These fairly high altitudes coupled with this region’s distance from the sea make Marcillac a pretty tough place to practice viticulture for sure.

So it should come as no surprise that in a place as harsh and unforgiving as Marcillac that the region’s signature grape variety (and its only one for the most part) is one tough little vine indeed, and so it is, and it goes by the peculiar name of Fer Servadou (as well as Mansois, but Fer Servadou is the more common moniker). As you might infer from the first word in the name – “Fer” –  which is French for “iron”, this is a variety that has become over the centuries, very well adapted to its  rocky and often gray-skied home. And this name is not just a nickname to characterize Fer’s hardiness because this descriptor actually directly refers to the vine’s extremely hard, woody trunks that have evolved over the centuries to deftly resist the trials presented to it by this often frigid, stony landscape.

And in far-flung regions like Marcillac what is never-ending trouble for the local vignerons is good for the wine consumer. Assiduous, year-round care must be given to the vines to assure that there is good quality fruit to harvest, so the region is full of old-vine vineyards that man and nature has selected over the centuries to carry the banner for the proud Marcillac legacy. And despite all the work required to farm in this parsimonious plot, in the end the market doesn’t give a fig – Marcillac’s obscurity does not allow grower’s to ask Bordeaux or Burgundy prices – not even close. Enter this evening’s cuvee`: an old vine (vieilles vignes) bottling made from 50 to 80 year-old plants that shows gobs of austere country elegance for far fewer bank notes than most other French can even think about matching.

In a departure from the usual regional wine and food pairing regimen I usually employ, since Marcillac wines pair so well with rich, hearty, earthy dishes in general, and lamb in particular, I served up a classic Turkish menu: leeks, carrots, and rice stewed in olive oil and lemon juice to start, and then lamb adana kebabs served over a bed of butter-toasted pide bread cubes with grilled spicy green peppers and two sauces – yogurt/garlic/cilantro/mint and simple tomato.














Domaine du Cros Marcillac Vieilles Vignes 2008

Barely transparent, purplish garnet color. Evocative, countrified nose of fresh wild blackberries, cranberry, and intense dried fruit, supported by powerful aromas of burnt caramel, wood smoke, fine black coffee, dry earth, sap, violets, and roasted walnuts. The medium-weight body nevertheless displays a very firm, peppery tannic structure and a prickly rustic acidity that frames muscular flavors of sour cherry, grilled plums, black olives, bittersweet chocolate, and grated cinnamon. Big, austerely dry finish.


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