Fer is a red wine grape varietal which is grown mainly in the south-west of France - being well known in the AOP wines of Gaillac, Marcillac and Béarn. It can also be found playing a minor role in the wines of; Madiran, Cabardès, Bergerac and the Languedoc areas. The varietal is also known as; Fer Servadou, Braucol, Caillaba, Pinenc, plus several other synonyms. The grape is also used in red blends from a few vin de pays wine areas in the south-west - with a number of 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 origins 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-west 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 south-west 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 AOP wines of Gaillac where it known under the old synonyms of Braucol. Other AOP 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 2012 there was around 1600ha of Fer vines planted in south-west France. Outside France the vine is rarely found planted or in a wine. 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 a dry finish.