Thursday, 8 December 2011

Into the Midi

The grand Midi trip started with Cat (our Midi buyer) in our very own Chai with a tasting of Bergerac wines. Later that evening we headed for Toulouse, ready to explore the wine region of Côtes du Frontonnais, now called AOC Fronton.

The region has a long, fascinating history and wine growing has been very important here. The Romans planted the first vines and it was once owned by the Order of St. John, dating back to 1050. The dominant grape is Négrette which originates from Cyprus where it’s known as Mavro a Chypre. It was brought to France by Les Chevaliers de St. Jean de Jerusalem. The grape was also known as Pinot Saint Georges in the US but this name is now forbidden on wine labels.

The region’s dense and deeply coloured red wines became famous throughout Europe. King Louis XIII and his PM Cardinal Richelieu held huge, complex wine tastings here during the siege of Montauban. However the first classification took place in 1975, with the merger of the two VDQS regions Villaudric and Fronton.

The soils here are ferriferous quartz gravel and the vineyards (a total of 2,100ha) sit in the Tarn valley directly west of Gaillac between the rivers of Tarn and Garonne. As well as reds, the region also makes both rosé and white wines and blends can be made from Négrette, Malbec, Mérille, Fer, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as from a maximum of 15% of Gamay, Cinsault and Mauzac.

The red wines are locally described as the Beaujolais of Toulouse which I thought was a lovely name. However the wines can be commonly tannic and hard and I am more interested in their rosés. We make our excellent Haut Rivage Négrette Rosé here, and the Négrette grape is a star rosé maker. Modern vinification equipment and techniques such as bag presses, stainless steel and cooling now allow the Négrette grape to make the most beautifully coloured, pale salmon-pink wine with subtle black berry and raspberry fruit on the palate. Rosé is a great drink and should be consumed all year round; not just in the Summer. Try one with Christmas dinner!

Next we continue on to Carcassonne.


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