About a month ago, I went to a tasting of the recent vintages for a few wines (like thirty) that Louis/Dressner (or LDM) import. This was held at one of the best wine bars in Chicago, Webster’s Wine Bar. And while Joe Dressner was to come in and show the wines, a week earlier his health had turned the wrong corner and he was unable to make it. Fortunately the show went on with Joe’s business partner (and the ‘M’ in LDM) Kevin McKenna flying in and hanging out with us. Needless to say, there were quite a few amazing wines that night, but the one that just blew me away, that was the stand-out, knock-me-on-my-ass wine was the 2009 Marcillac from Causse Marines.
That night at Websters I couldn’t stop smelling this; it was intoxicating. I kept coming back to it all night. I’d go taste a few other things, but the thought of the aromas on this was like a sirens call beckoning me back. It was deep and earthy, peppery and meaty. It also had notes of rosemary and blood; it was like liquified salumi. It was love at first smell. Thankfully the taste of it matched the nose. Mouth watering, snappy, spicy, soulful, dark berries, tannins, acid all there, all rolling around on the ground getting busy with each other. The only thing that I could possibly say was wrong, was that I wasn’t eating any meat (preferably grilled) at the time. Safe to say a mental note was made of the vintage, producer and wine and with that label, it’s a pretty easy bottle to remember. But, wha? Causse Marines?? Marcillac??? No badgers allowed?!?
Imagine my extreme joy when my local pusher, er, wine seller extraordinaire told me that he had recently gotten some of this in and he was willing to take my money so I could take a bottle with me and partake of this beauty’s charms in the comfort of my home. Huzzah! Well, it wasn’t a fluke, this bottle was just as awesome as the one I’d had at the tasting. *Sniff* Ahhh, same nose. *Sip* Mmmm, same taste. Lovely jubbly. But, now, some questions had to be answered. What was the story behind the producer? Where was Marcillac? What grape was used for this? What was the vine age and what was the soil like that grew in? With so many questions, it was off to teh interwebz.
After a little digging, I really didn’t come up with much. Found an old blog post from Lyle about the ’08 version (he seems to have liked it, too), but it was predominately a tasting note. Though, in the comments section I noticed that Kevin McKenna wrote that the Marcillac was a relatively new wine for Causse Marines. As for Causse Marines itself, I did find a website for them, but my french isn’t the best, the English version isn’t working and it’s not the easiest to navigate. But, with the help of Google translate, I found out that it was started in 1993 by Patrice Lescarret in the town of Gaillac about an hour north of Toulouse in the Southwest bit of France.
Working originally with 8 hectares, but now bumped up to 12 ha, Lescarret is helped by Virginie Maignien with the intention of honoring the indigenous grapes of Gaillac; such household brand names like Ondenc, Mauzac and Duras. Via my post on Disorder looking for more info, Joe Dressner wrote that “All their vines, from before World War II, have been “grafted in place” and the new plantations come from “sélection massale.” The domaine’s name is derived from the word for limestone plateau on which it is located, called a “Causse,” and the stream named “Marines” which runs at the bottom of the property. Grapes are harvested by hand, and raised and vinified without chemicals. Some wines are free of added sulphites.” He added that the grapes that go into the Marcillac are known as Braucol also called Fer Servadou.
Evidently, Lescarret is quite a character, evidenced at least by the anti-badger tag on the back label, but also by thumbing his nose at the French AOC laws that state you can’t put the name of the grape on the label. For his varietal wines he skirts around this by calling them Dencon (for Ondenc), Zacmau (Mauzac) and Rasdu (Duras). Joe says they “rigorously follow the teachings of jocular biodynamie” and according to their website, they are Demeter certified. They have also made a Vin Jaune styled wine using the Mauzac grape, called Mysterre, allowing it to develop an oxidative quailty over the course of ten years without being topped up.
As for Marcillac itself (about two hours north of Gaillac), another poster on Disorder wrote what I believe is a quote from the South-West France: The Wines and Winemakers book by Paul Strang about Marcillac and in particular the Domaine du Mioula where Lescarret is/was the consulting winemaker. I’m quoting the following passage, though I don’t know if it’s taken directly from the book or edited. “While nearly all of Marcillac was devastated by phylloxera and had to be replanted and grafted to American rootstocks, Mioula’s owner Bernard Angles claims that a few of his vines are franc de pied. The oldest of the newer vines are 30+ years. Some of Mioula’s vines are planted in chalky soil high up on the causse, above the level of the iron-rich soils that characterize Marcillac.”
This about all the information I’ve been able to glean over the past couple days. If I can find any more, especially regarding the Causse Marines Marcillac, I’ll update this post.