Blog: Producer Newsletters

  • Queen of Negrette!

    September 25th, 2012

    Queen of Negrette!
    Katia Garouste, Fronton, South West France
     Katia Garouste 
    Raphael discovered Chateau Flotis in 2009 while tasting through the South West, one of his favorite wine regions in France. After an hour tasting at nearby Chateau Le Roc, he realized that his research was incomplete when owner Frederic Ribes told him that his wines were already imported in California by our friend, Charles Neal. Bummer. Raphael was about to leave the estate when Frederic asked him to wait so that he could make a phone call. A few minutes later, the secret was out and Raphael met the inspiring Katia Garrouste, a passionate 35 year-old woman, full of energy, from nearby Toulouse.


    Cassoulet, staple of South West food, during Caravan 2011
    Katia met her partners, Cathy Ribes and Myriam Ribes while working at Chateau Le Roc. Together, they formed a great team and decided to make it official. So, they found some old Négrette vines in Chateau Flotis property, bought the estate and released the first vintage in 2004. Located on the highest part of the appellation with some of the most complex terroir, Chateau Flotis was more or less abandoned by the previous owners – a perfect opportunity. 



    Caravan 2012 buyer trip last May 
    Cathy, who is married to Frederic, is the business brain while Myriam is in charge of sales and marketing and our dear friend Katia has the best job – overseeing the vineyards and making the wine. After studying law in Toulouse and working in that field for a few years, she jumped into the Flotis project and is today considered one of the most promising South West winemakers.
    Since the beginning, Flotis has been practicing organic viticulture and it became Ecocertified in 2011. In this vein, only natural yeast is used and the wines are unfiltered.
    Negrette plant
    The AOC of Fronton, which was granted in 1975, used to be known as ‘Pediment,’ when the Romans ruled this area, and is located between the Haut-Garonne and the Tarn-et-Garonne north of Toulouse. In simpler geographic terms, at least from a wine point of few, it is south of Bordeaux and west of the Roussillon, nestled in the non-Basque part of the southwest.
    Négrette is the region’s star grape variety. There are a variety of hypothesis but the reality is that Négrette is still very much of a mystery. It is believed to be part of a family of grapes sired by Prunelard Magdelaine but there is also a grape grown in Cyprus named Négrette. It was this Cypriot Négrette that was reportedly planted by the Knights of the Order of St. John of Jerusalem in the 12th century in present day Fronton.


    Healthy vineyards
    History aside, Négrette is a sturdy, tannic grape that can age or be consumed young. The Fronton AOC requires that at least 50% of Négrette is used in the wines. The remainder may be composed of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec (Cot), Syrah Merille and Fer, and up to 15% Gamay, Cinsault and Mauzac. Only red and rose wines are produced in the area.
    The climate is prone to extremes, with cold weather in the winter and heat during the summer months. Southerly winds bring iodized air though the strongest wind comes from the Atlantic.  The soil varies with some areas having a preponderance of clay while others have alluvial matter such as sand, pebbles and gravel. Much of the area is rich in iron. Flotis’s vines are primarily gravel and silt.


     So Black…
    Château Flotis Fronton Rose, 2011 
    This rosé de saignée is about as tired as a two year old in a playground (post nap, that is). A blend of 70% Négrette, 20% Syrah and 10% Cabernet Franc it was fermented with natural yeast and aged separately on its lees before blending. Fresh and minerally with vivacious strawberry fruit and a dash of pepper, it should drink well into the winter.
    Château Flotis Fronton, ‘Elles,’ 2008 
    Made and aged entirely in concrete tanks, this wine is earthy but also has an abundance of florality and  spiced blackberry, cherry fruit. Ninety percent Négrette with Syrah making up the rest, it is not too heavy but sits gracefully on the palate and leaves an indelible blackberry finish.
    Château Flotis Fronton, ‘Si Noire,’ 2009 
    Made entirely from 37 year old Négrette vines, ‘Sy Noire’ is Flotis’ flagship. A little bit of a tannic beast, decanting or even opening it eight hours in advance is not going to hurt. All this said, it is an intricate wine that exhibits a mound of terroir, black fruits, exotic spice and structure. 


    Also, check Katia Garrouste’s website:
    Next week: Domaine de Brin (Gaillac)…
    Fronton Appellation
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