The same grape. Three main names. Three names that couldn’t be much more different from one another.
Aside from these three names, it has approximately 50 other synonyms. Sigh. Such is vinous life.
It’s a very interesting old varietal. As written in Jancis Robinson, Julia Harding MW and Jose Vouillamoz’s Wine Grapes, “The name Fer derives from the Latin ferus, meaning wild or savage, which is consistent with the common belief that Fer was domesticated from local wild grapevines (Lavignac 2001).”
For the ampelographers out there, it is the grandparent to Carmenere.
Aside from the problematic naming, I’ve rather fallen in love with this little-known varietal.
WITH PLAIMONT PRODUCTEURS (Gers, Saint Mont, Madiran):
I work with Plaimont Producteurs, who vinify Pinenc and use it in many of their brilliant SW blends. They have a phenomenal pre-phylloxera vineyard where they have some examples of pre-phy Pinenc vines. I was lucky enough to try some of their experimental microvinifications of the grape last year. The grape is lifted and fresh, showing red fruit and floral characteristics and works excellently blended with its fellow Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.
Madiran, one of its homes
It is used as part of the blend in their striking and memorable top cuvee, Le Faîte, together with Tannat and Cabernet Sauvignon. The blend changes every year, and is a unique blending of the best expressions of Saint Mont terroir. There is an iconic blending day for it, which welcomes well-known journalists and sommeliers; this year being Olly Smith and Serge Dubs (of l’Auberge de l’Ill) to all come together and decide which blend shall become the final wine.
It’s very special, small-production, and due to being lesser-known it’s incredibly affordable too.
NOTES ON 2012: Lovely intense red berry nose of black raspberries, blackcurrants and blackberries, with a little cocoa nib. It is intensely fresh, and will age for decades. Lifted hints of spice and liquorice on the finish.
The UK agent for the trade is Corney and Barrow. Consumers can buy it through Portland for £21.95. The white cuvee is available through Adnams – a blend of Petit Courbu, Petit Manseng and Gros Manseng.
Three weeks apart, I came across two examples of this grape on two equally brilliant wine lists.
When hailing from Marcillac, the grape is known as Mansois.
This one comes from Domaine Laurens, and the vineyard is very steep and terraced. Deep eroded sandstone, rich in iron oxide.
NOTES: What a wine. So juicy. Fresh figs, blackberries, blueberries and a little bramble on the finish. Lean, stony, mineral core with a little grip and tons of freshness. It’s crunchy. A wine with energy.
TASTED AT BRILLIANT CORNERS, DOMAINE DU CROS CUVEE LO SANG DEL PAIS 2015.
Here we are with Domaine du Cros, again on steep vineyards with eroded limestone, with the signature “rougier”/iron oxide soils.
NOTES: Bright, lively red fruit: ripe redcurrants, frozen raspberries and some wild strawberry. Some liquorice on the finish and a distinct freshness and a certain graphite quality from its rougiers soil.
Aside from these, I haven’t many other examples of the grape, so please reach out to me if you do…!