Cellar Direct Winter Wines: Lo Sang del Pais

7 12 2019

By Peter Vetsch

[This bottle was provided as a sample for review purposes.]

It’s been a little over a year since we featured a wine from Cellar Direct on PnP, and in the meantime the first pan-Canadian artisanal wine club has been busy behind the scenes, preparing its next suite of offers and tweaking its approach in order to maximize buying efficiency and aim for the best of both worlds in the online wine purchasing sphere:  time-limited features and repeat buying capability.  Once a week, on Saturday, Cellar Direct will release a new offer on its website and to its mailing list.  Offered bottles are available in multiples of 3 and can be shipped across Canada, with any such transport taking place in temperature-controlled trucks to avoid any damage to the wines in transit due to extreme heat or cold.  Full case purchases of a single wine attract discounts off the standard offer price and the most effective shipping rates, but buyers can also accumulate 3-packs or 6-packs of different wines and have them shipped together.  Once an offer week comes to an end, any remaining bottles left over from the offer can still be purchased from the online shop at Cellar Direct’s website, so if a particular order bowls you over, there may be a chance to get more.  Did I mention they ship across Canada?  Readers in government liquor monopoly provinces, take note — this is your chance at freedom.

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The first of Cellar Direct’s new offers dropped today, and to mark the occasion we are bringing you a contemporaneous review of the bottle now available for online purchase everywhere in the country.  We will be doing the same thing over the next five Saturdays (yes, even through Wine Advent, because we’re crazy), so feel free to check out our notes on the weekly wine to assist in your buying decisions.  The inaugural Cellar Direct release of this new offer season is one that rang a few distant bells, but it took some digging through the Pop & Pour archives to find out why.

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2017 Domaine du Cros “Lo Sang del Pais” Marcillac ($27)

I read this entire front label two or three times before concluding that I had no idea what I was about to drink.  Then something faintly familiar about the the regional name “Marcillac” started gnawing at me, to the point where (for the first time ever) I actually searched my own website to see if I could crack the code.  Not only did this end up solving the riddle, it also brought me back full circle to the present bottle.  It turns out that my only prior Marcillac experience was from a different Cellar Direct wine from this same tiny esoteric region in Southwest France, whose grape of choice is the excellently named Fer Servadou, also known as the slightly-less-excellently-named Mansois, which is what Domaine du Cros prefers to call it.  Marcillac, located due east of Cahors just northeast of Toulouse, is one of the smallest AOPs in all of France, at only 180 hectares of total vineyard area and with only a dozen or so estates doing the viticulture.  In order to qualify for the Marcillac regional designation, a wine must contain at least 80% Fer Servadou, with minority blending partners Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Prunelard (??) permitted, if not necessarily encouraged.  This bottle, like the only other Marcillac of my wine drinking existence, is 100% Mansois.  Go big or go home.

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Domaine du Cros persevered for four generations on a single hectare of vineyard land and a total production of less than 350 cases per year before the fifth generation charted the course for prudent expansion, partly through the careful purchasing and renting of select old-vine plots and partly through new hillside plantings, all entirely focused on Mansois.  They now have control of over 30 hectares of vineyards (over 1/6th of the entire appellation), making them one of the main producers that chart the course and plot the future of the entire area (and also, surely, one of the biggest landholders of Fer Servadou plots in the world).  This particular bottling, “Lo Sang del Pais”, which translates as “the blood of the land”, is the Domaine’s younger-vine expression of Fer Servadou, though “younger” here means that the vines are 25 years old on average.  These “new” Fer grapes are planted on steep limestone-dusted hillsides, fermented over the course of 20-25 days in temperature-controlled steel tanks and bottled the year after harvest without seeing oak, such that the resulting wine is held out to be “far from the heaviness of the new world”.

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Fittingly, Lo Sang del Pais is a strikingly vivid blood red colour, shining and dancing in sanguine form in the glass.  The spicy, prickly nose melds gunpowder, rose petals, black pepper and ash, with dank raspberry fruit peeking through furtively, confined to the cellar but peering upwards.  Like my lone other Mansois experience, the Domaine du Cros version was sleek and medium-bodied but with plenty of presence, with this one offering a further surprising burst of plushness on the mid palate.  Bitter parchment and ink notes play off of steak au louvre, asphalt and dusty blackberry and sour cherry fruit; Bandol-esque pan scrapings and charcoal sit comfortably alongside lively acid and a charming backyard demeanour.  This grape is a study in contrasts, deceptively complex, pleasure on tape delay.  As this excellent French wine blog opines, “[a]t first this might seem rough, rude, inhospitable, but if you linger a little, we learn to love it.”  This is a grape and a wine that reveals itself over the course of a bottle as opposed to a sip, that progressively unveils its layers over time.  It is a wine that is confidently, unquestionably itself, a trait that is in increasingly rare supply.  Long live Fer Servadou.  Er, Mansois.

90+ points

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Cork Rating:  3.5/10 (I appreciate the graphic effort, but I just can’t bring myself around to NomaCorcs.  An extra .5 for the French version though.)


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