Château Coutinel "On l'appelle négrette" 2016
Négrette is one of many obscure but historic grape varieties grown in south-west France (see my recent podcast episode for more). Despite that obscurity, it's known by several different names as the wonderful label of this wine indicates. It was, erroneously, thought that the grape originated from Cyprus, so one of its homonyms is Mavro which is the most planted grape in Cyprus. Mavro, incidentally, means black in Greek, while Négrette means little black grape. In the nineteenth century, the grape was planted in California where it was known as Pinot Saint Georges; its popularity in the state also led to it being called Pinot Noir de Californie.
The style of wine Négrette produces is young, fruity, and floral, making the grape quite different from the heavy, tannic varieties planted in nearby Gaillac, Madiran, and Cahors. It's mainly planted in Fronton, where it must be 50% of the final wine, the rest potentially being made up with Syrah. It's not a particularly easy grape to work with, as it's prone to rot and powdery mildew, so the warm climate of south-west France is very helpful.
"On l'appelle négrette" is made under the Château Coutinel label, which is part of a much larger winery and distillery (this is armagnac country) called Vignobles Arbeau. I bought the wine for two reasons: I hadn't tried Négrette for a while and because of the label. It simply lists all the names Négrette is known by, concluding: "et ici, chez elle, à toulouse, on l'appelle négrette" (and here, in its home, in Toulouse, we call it Négrette).
The wine is as light and fruity as Négrette should be, but it has firm tannins which give the wine great balance and structure. Amazing value at $16, and extremely food friendly. Not dissimilar to quality Beaujolais.
Grape Variety: Négrette
Region: Fronton, France
Food pairing: dishes with rich sauces or pizza