Fer is a red wine grape varietal which is grown primarily in south-west France and is most notable for its role in the Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) wines of Gaillac, Marcillac and Béarn. But can also be found as a minor component in the wines of Madiran, Cabardès, Bergerac and the Languedoc. The varietal is also known as; Fer Servadou, Braucol, Caillaba, Pinenc, plus several other synonyms. The grape is also featured in red blends from several vin de pays regions in the south-west with significant plantings in the Aveyron department.
The earliest written reference to the name Fer first appeared around 1784 - though as mentioned above it has at least five popular distinct synonyms. The name ‘Fer’ has its root and meaning connected with the Latin word ferus, which means ‘wild’ or ‘savage’.

 

Which is in-reference to the vine - (as with many across Europe), being domesticated from local wild vines found in south-west France. DNA analysis had found that Fer and another varietal Hondarribi Beltza from the Basque Country in Spain - crossed to produce Gros Cabernet. Which then crossed with Cabernet Franc to produce Carménère. So, it can be said that Fer is a grand-parent of Carménère.
Fer has a long tradition in the south-western wine regions of France and is possibly indigenous to the area. For centuries, the full-bodied red wines from many of the wine-producing communes often included some percentage of Fer in their blend. The grape was prized for their colour and concentration of flavour it added even though viticulture and cultivation could be difficult due to its extremely hard wood and stems.
While plantings of Fer can be found through southwest France, the grape is most widely planted in the Aveyron department where it is featured in the wines of Marcillac, Entraygues-sur-Truyère and Estaing where the grape is also known as Mansois. In Madiran and Béarn, Fer is also as known Pinenc and while once more prominently utilized, now it is typically a complementary small player to Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc. In the Tarn department, it can be found in the AOC wines of Gaillac where it known under the old synonyms of Braucol. Other AOC wines that include Fer among their permitted varietals is Cabardès in the Languedoc-Roussillon wine region and Bergerac in the Dordogne which is essentially the northern most reach of vine plantings.
As of 2009 there were approximately 1650ha of Fer vines planted in south-western France. Outside France the vine is rarely found planted or in a wine blend. Though there are several vines (synonyms) found in northern Italy - which recent DNA testing has found to be identical to Fer.
Wine authority Jancis Robinson describes the grape varietal as; - “the untamed, tannic variety of Marcillac, south-west France”.
Wines crafted from Fer are typically very dark in colour, with rich wild berry fruit flavours, good levels of tannin and expressing a rather rustic-wild texture on the palate that carries through to the dry finish.