The World Of French Marc

  • By Mattia Cianca
  • 22 Dec 2020
  • 5 MIN
  • Level 101
Made possible by
Credit : Comité Interprofessionnel des Vins du Jura

In France, marc or eaux-de-vie de marc, is the result of pomace distillation. Pomace is considered the leftover skins, seeds, pulp, and sometimes stems from wine production and it is produced in most wine regions, including Champagne, Provence, and Bordeaux. However, there are only three regions where marc is officially protected by AOP: Burgundy, Jura, and Alsace. 

Exploring Marc de Bourgogne

Marc production in Burgundy began in the 17th century under the Cistercian monks, with Napoleon allowing vineyard owners to distill their own production up to an annual maximum of 10 l. Today, according to the ODG (L’Organisme de Défense et de Gestion des eaux de vie) current production is approximately 400,000 bottles per year, of which 25% is exported.

As per wine production, the final quality of eaux-de-vie-de-marc is linked to the quality of the raw material. Within 24 hours of pressing, pomace is kept in oxygen-free containers that vary from 100 l to 200 hl, and distillation must occur before the 31st of March of the year following harvest. Permitted grape varieties include Aligoté, Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc, Melon, Gamay, Pinot Noir, Sacy, Tressot, and César.

Bottles bearing the “Marc de Bourgogne” label must be at least 40% abv and cannot be labelled with reference to grape variety or geographical indication. It also must be aged after distillation in oak barrels no larger than 60 hl for a minimum of two years.

Regarding ageing the following terms apply:

“Vieille” (Old) - minimum of 3 years ageing.
“Très Vieille” (Very Old) - minimum of 6 years ageing.
“Hors d'Âge” (Over-Aged) - minimum of 10 years ageing.

The limited use of new barrels makes it possible to preserve a part of the fruity and floral aromas which contribute to the quality of Marc de Bourgogne.

Marc de Bourgogne is mainly seen as a digestif, but also consumed as an aperitif, mixed with crème de cassis, as well as being used for washing the rind of the cheese with the designation of origin "Epoisses”.

Notable producers include:

-Jacoulot
-Domaine de la Romanée-Conti
-Domaine Joseph Drouhin

 Exploring Marc du Jura

Marc du Jura was established in 2015 and is a key ingredient for the local Macvin du Jura. Produced for centuries and called "chauffe-coeur" (warm heart), distillation of marc is a well-established tradition. 180 of 216 Jura winemakers (nearly 85%) distill their own marc, for a total annual volume of 1,500 hl, or the equivalent of 900 hl of pure alcohol. Appellation rules require a minimum of 40% alcohol at bottling and that a minimum of three varieties must be utilized. This must always include Savagnin augmented with Chardonnay, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Poulsard, and/or Trousseau.

According to the CIVJ (Comité Interprofessionnel des Vins du Jura) the product Marc du Jura AOC must show an amber-yellow color with notes of candied grapes and hints of vanilla. Distilled before the 30th of April of the year after harvest in either copper pot stills or column stills with a maximum 10 hl capacity. As for Burgundy, Marc du Jura cannot show any indication of grape variety, colour or sub-appellation, and must be aged for at least two years in wooden barrels with a maximum of 600 l capacity.

Regarding ageing the following terms apply:

“Vieille” (Old) - minimum of 5 years ageing.
“Très Vieille” (Very Old) - minimum of 8 years ageing.
“Hors d'Âge” (Over-Aged) - minimum of 10 years ageing.

Notable producers include:

-Domaine Pierre Richard
-Domaine Jacques Tissot
-Domaine Berthet-Bondet

Exploring Marc d’Alsace

Despite the great terroirs and the availability of several grape varieties in the region, Marc d’Alsace AOC is much lesser-known and reserved for the aromatic Gewürztraminer. The minimum alcohol is 45% and the use of wood for ageing is forbidden, relying on stainless steel vats that will keep the perfumed properties of this unique grape. These can be sold as soon as three months after distillation.

Notable producers include:

-Wolfberger
-Nusbaumer
-Hagmeyer

What about Marc des Côtes du Rhône?

Marc production in the Côtes du Rhône relies mainly on Grenache and Syrah. Bottles are labelled as “Indication Geographique Eau-de-vie de marc des Côtes-du-Rhône”'and the addition of a more specific origin (e.g. Marc d’Hermitage) is allowed. Marc des Côtes du Rhône can be sold as “blanche” (white) or aged.

Marc blanche is matured in tanks after distillation for a minimum period of three months, and according to the INAO shows aromas of fruit (grape and cherry) with floral notes. When aged, marc acquires an amber colour with aromas of licorice, dried fruits, tobacco, and sometimes touches of vanilla. Ageing must occur in wooden containers no larger than 2,000 l for a minimum period of three years. If sold with an indication of vintage, the minimum ageing period is ten years. Marc des Côtes du Rhône is traditionally enjoyed as a digestif.

Notable producers include:

-M. CHAPOUTIER
-Domaine du Vieux Télégraphe
-Domaine Mousset

Credit : Comité Interprofessionnel des Vins du Jura