Négrette

Négrette is a black-skinned grape variety predominantly found in Fronton, southwestern France. It is a descendant of Mavro, an ancient variety from Cyprus, and legend has it that the vines were carried back from there to Gaillac by the Knights Templar. Over time, the variety spread to nearby Fronton, which today is its undeniable home.

Négrette is used in the production of both reds and rosés. Its rosé wines are very fruity, with a distinctive violet flavour and a spicy finish. They tend to be more full bodied than southeastern French rosés. Négrette reds are soft, silky and perfumed, with the same distinctive violet aroma as the rosés, along with certain animal and undergrowth flavours.

Négrette wines are deeply pigmented and relatively low in tannins and acidity. Because of these attributes, winemakers often blend the variety with Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon and even Pinot Noir, so as to add structure and ageing ability. Unfortunately, much of the Négrette identity is lost if too high a proportion of another variety is added (particularly in the case of Cabernet Sauvignon) as its subtlety and suppleness are overpowered. For this reason, single varietal wines are also popular, exhibiting Négrette's true character.

Négrette produces small, elliptical black berries in small, tight bunches. Hot and dry climates are best for Négrette as it is particularly susceptible to powdery mildew and grey rot. The variety enjoys difficult soils – gravel, stony silt and clay – and grows particularly well in the iron-rich soils of Fronton. In fact, Négrette is the principal variety in Fronton AOC, where wines must contain a minimum of 50 percent and monovarietal wines are common. The variety is also permitted in a number of IGP-classified wines, including Tarn and Lavilledieu.

Outside south west France, Négrette is virtually extinct. A small pocket of plantings still exists in San Benito, California, where the variety was formerly known as Pinot Saint-Georges.
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