LA FOLLE NOIRE OL’ AMBAT 2018
The famous American rock band Santana has an emblematic song called “Black Magic Woman”
CRAZY FOR BLACK TRANSGENDER NEGRETTE
… and I’m referencing this wine as the “Black Magic Trans Gender Man” since this wine has both a masculine and feminine personality. Have you ever met a man who’s burly and bold with a gruff exterior yet gallant, intelligent, and a teddy bear inside who doesn’t take himself too seriously? This sexy wine made from 100% Négrette, reminds me of such a man. I get the feeling I’m describing my Babito, though he’s not transgender (LOL)! Anyways, It is a red wine grape whose origins have been shadowed by time, but has since been uncovered by producers committed to the grape such as this wine by the genius brothers at Chateau Le Roc.
In general, Southwest France historically has been firmly associated and well known for “Black Wines”. Almost near extinction, Negrette has been cultivated in the Gaillac region of France since antiquity. It is one of France’s oldest viticultural areas, just one of the many regions kissed by the Roman vine bug. The region is best known for its richly colored, spice-scented red wines made by grapes such as Négrette. However, that’s all gratefully SLOWLY changing, since the French are never too quick for a change. In the past, these wines were sadly used to beef up thin Bordeaux wines, Thus the black wine association. Excitingly, these age-worthy complex wines can offer excellent value for money as opposed to the snooty wallet-draining wines of their Bordelais neighbors to the north.
Romantically Négrette is said to have been brought to Europe from Cyprus by the Knights Templar, floating its way up the Haute Garonne and making roots in Fronton. It’s a descendant of the primitive grape variety called Mavro native to the Republic, responsible for the historic delicious wine, Commandaria!
nowadays, it’s cultivated extensively in the Gaillac region of Southwestern France, notably around the town of Fronton, which gives its name to the unique Fronton appellation. In that region, Négrette must be at least 50% of a grower’s vineyard, clearly, they like this grape around these parts. The variety is rarely seen outside its AOP. I personally call it the Whitehorse grape that’s crazy black. The only other place outside its home can be found in San Benito County, California, where it was long known as Pinot St George. Leave to California to grow anything and rename cultivars as if they just discovered something special. Though you will usually not be able to appreciate its pure nuances in a monopole wine, since it will most likely be blended into wines.
CRAZY IN LOVE WITH….
Words that tend to crop up in describing Négrette wines are supple and perfumed. Many sources say that the wines should be drunk young, but others as Négrette wines are normally opaque in color. Their perfume dried violets, but with other intoxicating spice/herb aromas along with animal and leather, typical of ancient grapes. While Négrette is often used in blends, its distinctive qualities get quickly muted by almost any blend partner. It prefers to stand alone and represent itself with confidence, so single Négrettes are the ones to be captivated by. The wines are generally low in tannins and acidity, leading to the luxuriously silky texture, like a LORO PIANA cashmere quality. Brooding wild black fruit and undergrowth of herbs and spices will have your palate doing a happy dance for a very long finish. It’s your date for the night and you won’t be disappointed whether you think it’s feminine or masculine, it’s excitingly complex.
Negrette is used in the production of both reds and rosés. Its rosé wines are very fruity, with a distinctive violet flavor and a spicy finish. They tend to be more voluptuous in the body than Southeastern French rosés.
TAKING CHANCES WITH CRAZY
In the petite region of Fronton located 50 miles north of Toulouse in Southwest France lies Domaine le Roc. Catherine, Frederic, Jean- Luc Ribes, and Pierre Salama have owned and operated the Chateau since 1981. They have been farming organically and sustainably since and with heavy cover crops between the rows and sheep grazing in the vineyards throughout winter, they’re able to let the grapes ripen freely. They vinify wines radically with the crazy Negrette and for that reason, they have a phenomenal reputation because of it.
In 1988, brothers Jean-Luc and Frederic Ribes took over their father’s 32 acres of grapes which were commonly sold to the largest cooperative in Fronton. The brothers decided why to make others rich off their sought-after fruit and bottle their own wine. They called their property Château le Roc, but A’La French arrogance, the Minister of Agriculture demanded them to remove the first word because no château had ever been built on the property. Basically, it’s the equivalent of telling them they are just farmers, not worthy of “Chateau” status. Unfortunately, they had to comply, and the name was finally shortened to Le Roc. I think the label fits them better as the name and most importantly, what they represent. They finally made cuvée in 2008, calling it Folle Noir Crazy Black d’Ambat, Ambat being the name of the vineyard used for the cuvée. This seven-acre parcel is saturated in oxidized small stones called Rouget’s that contribute to the serious face of the wine!
“DON’T TURN YOUR BACK ON ME BABY”
From one of the lines of Santana’s “Black Magic Woman”. Domaine Le Roc is the prime example of not turning their back on this rock star grape at near extinction. The Domaine is the real deal and so is Negrette. Together, they turn crazy into magic!!!!!!!! …..What wine are you willing to take chances on or go crazy for?!
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