A softer and lighter Bordeaux-style wine from South West France – Fronton
With the proliferation of value wines from around the globe, it’s challenging to find one that is not just a “fruity and fresh” everyday wine. This weekend, I discovered an inexpensive red wine that was a departure from your standard fruit-driven wines by simply staying true to tradition. What a novel idea.
The wine was a Fronton rouge from the South West of France. The South West of France is a large region south of Bordeaux comprised of unique red wine appelations such as Madiran (tannic reds from the tannat grape), Cahors (old-world malbec wines) and also Fronton, whose principal red grape is Negrette.
The Fronton appellation is about 2,400 hectares in size, with gravelly soils like the Medoc except closer to the origin of the Pyrenees. The warm and dry climate during the growing season allows the Negrette grape – subject to mildew disease – to grow well here.
Negrette yields a wine with lovely floral aromas, black fruit flavors and supple tannins. By itself though, it probably wouldn’t make a very good wine because it’s a thin-skinned grape, somewhat lacking in acidity, tannins and color, and oxidizes easily.
But that’s where the art of blending comes in. Fronton producers blend Negrette (minimum 50% of the wine blend) with grapes like Cabernets Sauvignon and Franc (together max 25%), syrah (max 40%) and malbec (max 25%) to supplement the structure and color Negrette lacks. Getting the right mix is the challenge.
The Chateau Le Roc Fronton “Le Classique” 2008 (SRP $12.99) reminded me of a “traditional” mid-priced Bordeaux, the kind many of us have forgotten about with all the fruity wines in the market. The color was revealing in its medium garnet hue. It was light and fresh, with blackberry fruit and floral aromas, but with a background of licorice, leather and game. Quite balanced with a core of raspberry and cherry fruit, supple tannins and medium finish. It’s drinking perfectly right now.
The friend I shared it with is an occasional drinker who likes lighter wines like Pinot Noir, and he loved this wine. Perfect for serving as an aperitif on the patio or to serve with food. So if you’re looking for a wine that is as appealing as a “fresh and fruity” everyday wine but has bit of that Old World complexity and a lot of uniqueness, this is a great choice.
The wine is imported by Charles Neal Selections.