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Domaine Matha Cuveé Lairis 2015

Domaine Matha Cuveé Lairis 2015

Winegrower: Domaine Matha
Region: Marcillac AOC
Grape: Fer Servadou (Mansois)
Vintage: 2015
Color: Red
Alc. 12.5%

At Cellar Direct we really enjoy introducing our members to wonderful new wines from relatively unheard of grape varieties and obscure regions. Globally, around 1,500 different grapes are used to make commercial quantities of wine. However, less than 20 varieties make up practically all the wine we find on retail shelves. That’s a pity because today’s wine, from Domaine Matha, is from an obscure grape and region and it is exactly what wine should be all about. It’s delicious, food friendly, with good minerality, bright fresh fruit, and deliciously drinkable, and at $23 affordable. It has the personality of a particular grape grown in particular soils. It’s a wine that you can open alone and it’s gone in 45 minutes… and you don’t know how it happened. It’s full of energy and personality. Forget about points and tasting notes. Some might call this a ‘fringe’ wine, but if this is what fringe wines are about, I say bring them on.

The southwest of France is perhaps the country’s most overlooked wine region. It’s easy to find bottles from Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, the Rhone or Loire Valleys and Alsace at your local wine shop. Languedoc-Roussillon is showing up on more and more shelves, as are wines from the Jura and Savoie. But outside of a few isolated outposts (notably Cahors and Madiran), Southwest France goes largely unseen. This is unfortunate because there are a lot of exciting grapes grown there that aren't grown anywhere else, or are only available in very limited quantities elsewhere. And because of the region’s obscure profile there is low global demand and therefore most of the best wines can be bought for very reasonable prices, but that is changing. 

The southwest of France stretches south of Bordeaux towards the Spanish frontier and east to the Mediterranean Sea. Marcillac is a tiny, enigmatic AOC tucked away in the northeast corner not far from Cahors. The region has a long wine history; vines are believed to have grown here since the Abbey of Conques first planted these beautiful, rolling red hillsides between the 8th and 10th centuries. Though it borders the Mediterranean, there was no major port through which winegrowers could export their wines, so their only option was the port in Bordeaux. But because the merchants there had their own wines to sell, they created commercial barriers to discourage outside competition. The result was that the winegrowers of the region were basically shut out of foreign markets and could not develop a reputation outside of their own local.

Marcillac’s 180 hectares of vineyards are located in the valleys of two streams, the Ady and Créneau, and the very best sit high up on the hillsides. The vineyards are rich in iron oxide, and, as a result, the soil and rocks are coloured red.  

Fer Servadou, or ‘Mansois’ as it is known in Marcillac, derives from the Latin word ‘ferus’ meaning wild and savage and suggests that the grape was domesticated from local vines. Servadou means ‘well suited to conservation’ implying that wines made from this variety would keep well. The variety is rarely seen outside of France.

Jean-Luc Matha first studied to become a priest before he took over his family’s estate 30 years ago. The estate has been in his family for generations and now totals 15 hectares of vineyards. These are scattered around the town of Bruejouls on slopes so steep that access by four-wheel-drive is not for the faint-hearted. His vines are massale selections rather than reproductions of single clone and this adds to their local authenticity. All vineyard work is by hand and he ferments in cement tanks with natural yeasts.

Jean-Luc’s wines are some of the finest, fruitiest and most forwardly aromatic of the region. They are favourites of sommeliers and are to be found in some of the best restaurants and specialty wine shops in France, Japan and the United States.

His cuvée “Lairis” comes from 30+ year-old vines and has been likened to Loire Valley Cabernet Franc meets Cru Gamay from Beaujolais and Rhône Valley Grenache. It is fermented for 10 to 12 days then aged in stainless steel tanks before being bottled lightly filtered and with just a touch of sulfur added. This medium plus bodied wine is deep ruby in color; aromas of cassis and strawberry, ginger, paprika and white pepper burst out of the glass. On the palate the fruit carries through alongside a noticeable minerality and wonderful freshness that compliments the smooth tannins. Serve on the cool side like you would a good Cru Beaujolais or Cabernet Franc from the Loire in a Burgundy stem and enjoy with Asian dishes like lamb biryani or for something simpler this Japanese beef steak recipe.