Geeking Out On Marcillac

The Wines of Philippe Teulier – Domaine du Cros Marcillacs

bottle of Marcillac Fer Servadou

Wine adventurers, please take note, as these wines are unlike anything you’ve ever tried.  Marcillac is located in the western part of Auvergne, nestled in the mountain range known as the Massif Central.  Like many of France’s vineyards, those of Marcillac were planted by monks beginning in the 10th century.  Centuries later, it was the bourgeoisie from the nearby city of Rodez who took interest in and expanded the vineyards.  Unfortunately, the region experienced the devastation of phylloxera at the end of the 19th century and the economic problems of the early 20th century led to the great abandonment of the vineyards and an overall depopulation of the region.  Many moved to Paris to find work in restaurants and over time they opened their own bistros and began to bring the wines of Marcillac to the big city. 

Enter into the equation Domaine du Cros, owned and operated by Philippe Teulier, and now considered one of the top estates in the region.  Du Cros was part of the rebuilding and resurgence of Marcillac, and they own some of the oldest vines in the region.  Oh yeah, the vines, the grape…….what the hell is Marcillac?  Well, Marcillac is obviously the region and Fer Servadou is the grape.  Confused?  I understand, but stay with me here guys.  Fer Servadou is a relatively prolific grape throughout Southwestern France that wine expert Jancis Robinson describes as “full-bodied with dark ruby colors and concentrated fruit flavors of rhubarb, cassis and smoky herbs.”  The name Fer is French for iron and refers to the very hard and “iron like” wood of the vine’s above ground canopy.  It also just so happens that there is a lot of iron in the soil in Marcillac.  On to the wines, as Domaine du Cros makes two.

Fer Servadou
Domaine du Cros Marcillac
The estate’s “regular” wine………trust me, there’s nothing regular about this wine at all………….is simply labelled Marcillac.  The wine does possess one of the most beautiful, old school labels I’ve ever seen, but trust me folks, this is wild, unconventional wine at its finest.  Teulier farms organically, ferments with indigenous yeasts and bottles without filtering.  The nose is dominated by roasted herbs, iron minerality, pepper, meat juices and subtle red fruits.  It reminds me a bit of a Loire Valley Cab Franc or even a Mencia with its lively character.  I think it would be good with grilled meats, stews or braises, but I actually love drinking it just by itself.
old vine fer servadou
Du Cros Marcillac Vieilles Vignes consumed my McDuff
Philippe also makes a small amount of wine from his oldest parcel of vines that were planted back in the early 1930’s.  The wine is fermented in a combination of old oak barrels and chestnut, and it has a track record for aging very gracefully.  As great blogger David McDuff said, a 2002 vintage bottle of this exact wine that he consumed last August “reminded me, in beautiful terms, of why I go to the trouble of cellaring wine.”  In its youth, this wine is a bit raw and edgy to put it politely, with lots of peppery, minerally, bloody (from the iron soils) and herbal notes, but at about year 5, more of the fruit comes to the surface.  I personally haven’t had the opportunity to taste this wine with any age on it, but I’ll take Mr. McDuff’s word for it.  “Still vibrant in color, its aromas have developed, since its more prickly, peppery youth, to something that is more closely evocative of an old school Médoc wine with some bottle age under its belt.  There’s something about this old Marcillac, though, that’s much more enjoyable – and joyous – to drink than equally old Bordeaux. Maybe it’s that component of blood and iron, expressions of both terroir and the aptly named Fer Servadou so inimitable to good Marcillac. While there’s great bottle development here, there’s also plenty of fruit – blackberry and cassis, in particular – and a vitality of structure that suggests the wine could easily go another couple of years without losing stride.”  Thanks David for providing the excellent commentary.
When all is said and done, there are so many great wines available on the market today.  Some are definitley more fruit driven than those of Monsieur Teulier, but few possess the soul and character of these two.  I would be remiss to not thank Mr. Ed Addiss of Wine Traditions, a Virginia based importer who loves to “fly his freak flag” when it comes to selecting the wines for his portfolio.  Thank God there are brave souls like him supporting small family estates like this one who, much like Slow Foods proponents, strive to preserve the regional identity of their artisan agricultural products. 

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