Posted by: tomciocco | July 14, 2014

NO NEGRETTES – MY FIRST EVER POST ON A MYSTERIOUS GRAPE FROM SOUTHWESTERN FRANCE

The varieties from the greater Bordeaux region – the two Cabernets, Merlot, Malbec and other southwestern French denizens like Tannat get the lion’s share of the ink when discussing this part of the wine world mostly because they make up the great majority of the wines made in this part of country. There is however another quintessentially southwestern French variety that almost no one knows despite its unique personality, and this grape goes by the name of Negrette. This evening’s wine is classified as a Fronton which is the name of an A.O.C. that lies about 25 miles north of Toulouse. I have logged one previous post about a Fronton wine, but that bottling was blended with some of the grapes mentioned above. This wine is made from pure Negrette.

Despite its fair dispersion in the growing regions of Fronton, Villaudric and Lavilledieu, Negrette’s precise origins and genetic identity are as yet unsubstantiated, though there are some credible theories that place it as a relation to Malbec. This entire area of France is typically quite dry, and more particularly, in the Fronton region, due to its location in the Garonne river basin, the soil is quite sandy. As it turns out, these two features are the key terroir characteristics for raising Negrette which is a grape that absolutely requires mostly dry weather and well-drained soils due to its extreme susceptibility to all of the vine diseases associated with a surplus of water like molds and mildews. Consequently, it seems very likely that Negrette is quite an old vine that evolved/was developed to cope with these conditions over many centuries.

In the glass, Negrette is something of a seemingly contradictory dichotomy: it is very deeply colored and with a certain weighty mouthfeel, but its other face is not highly structured, having only moderate levels of both tannins and acids, and its flavors are quite overtly fruity and feminine with an almost aromatically fragrant nose. This somewhat peculiar character make it a great candidate for making blended wines, and so it goes in most cases, but there are increasingly more and more producers who see these idiosyncracies as an asset to be featured rather than a weakeness to be shored up by other grapes, and the way that this wine presents itself clearly lends credence to the ideas of producers like this one who have the confidence that Negrette can and does produce complete and satisfying wines with out assistence.

I put this delightful red with a first course of cold green bean salad with walnuts dressed with a tomato paste and shallot vinaigrette, which I followed up with pan fried strip steaks liberally dusted with piment d’Espelette and a side of Lentilles du Puy with potatoes.

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Chateau La Colombiere Fronton Negrette 2012

Blackish purple color with crimson at the rim. Arresting nose of black raspberry, plum, candied watermelon, blueberry, lilies, subtle barnyard notes, wood smoke, licorice and dark chocolate. In the mouth the wine is medium full with a chewy texture, a soft tannic structure and a juicy acidity that push rustically elegant flavors of blueberry, myrtle, black currant, sandalwood and eucalyptus. Long, softly dry finish.

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