In the WSET Level 3 wine course that I did they never mentioned Fronsac wine region in Bordeaux. For me, anything out of the mainstream is interesting to visit. Call me an eager beaver but finding top quality small scale wine producers at the lesser known places gives me a great sense of joy. That being said, Fronsac may not be so known as the neighbouring Pomerol and St. Émillion regions, but the terrain is made of clay and limestone soils which can produce excellent wine for a far better price than the more prestige regions around. I spent three days exploring the region and voilà, here is my TOP Château guide for the Fronsac wine region…
Fronsac wine region – Château Gaby
I visited Château Gaby with Tom Mullen, wine reviewer contributor for Forbes online magazine. Our mission to find hidden gems in Bordeaux took us to Damien Landouar who is in charge of four organic wineries that include Château Gaby! The château lies in the Canon Fronsac sub-appellation which is a small region next to the Dordogne river but within the bigger Fronsac appellation.
Note: Myself and Damien Landouar
Gaby has 16 hectares of land in use and they produce mainly Merlot grapes with a small percentage of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. I found this a special place because the land is treated with much respect and they are doing some very interesting experiments with music and vibrations to the vines! Read more about that in my full blogpost about this chateau.
The wines are energetic and the fruit flavours are well present even after 25 months of oak ageing! I have not come across a wine that often that has the perfect balance between fruit, oak flavours, tannins and acidity. This is certainly a winemaking job very well done!
Fronsac wine region – Vignobles Ponty
We completely found this Château by accident in the Canon Fronsac wine region. It was the third and last Château visit of the day and a winner for sure. Vignobles Ponty is a family business since 1905 and in July 2019 the young and talented Helene Ponty took over from her father. From this moment Helene introduced organic winemaking and they are applying for the organic certification this year!
Note: Helene Ponty with the wine from 1989!
Vignobles Ponty makes a 100% Merlot which is called Château du Pavillon. The wine is aged for one year in 2nd and 3rd year old barrels. This is done to reduce the heavy oak flavours and the wine will have more subtle oak notes. I absolutely loved the 2012 as it is very round and rich with earthy flavours but still there is a lot of red fruits coming through. It has that smoothness on the palate which is why I had to buy this wine!
We got to try the same wine but from 1989 which is nearly the same age as me! This wine had a deep garnet colour (because of the age) and tertiary notes of leather and earth with hints of orange and chocolate. I was very impressed by the fact that after all these years the acidity and freshness was still so present. They make some great blend wines as well, definitely a must try!
Fronsac wine region – Château Fontenil
When you have the chance to meet one of the most iconic winemakers in the world you must definetly go! Dany Rolland runs together with Michel Rolland and their children, the Rolland Collection. They consult and own vineyards all across the world. Dany Rolland welcomed us at her home, Château Fontenil. It is a small château with 9 hectares where they grow mostly Merlot and a bit of Cabernet Sauvignon. To be honest, I was a little nervous about meeting such an icon but Dany is a very lovely woman who loves to share her wisdom!
The story of Château Fontenil started in 1986 were everything but the vines had to be replaced! Over the years they transformed the château to what it looks like today, a beautiful family home. The average age of the vines is over 40 years old. Grapes are picked manually and double sorting takes place before and after destemming. This is done to make sure that only the best quality grapes are used for the wine!
Note: From left to right: Myself, Dany Rolland and Lara Daruiz
Dany shared a bottle of the Château Fontenil 2011 with us in her garden, which was the perfect setting. The production is small but the quality of the wine is how the French would call it Magnifique! How could it not? Decades of experience, attention to detail and a huge amount of passion went into this wine. The wine is intense and elegant on the nose with hints of violet and blackberries and cedar. On the palate there is layers of luscious dark and red fruits with notes of toast and vanilla, delicious!
Great news, the Fronsac region is not so commercialised as other parts in Bordeaux. This is perfect as the quality and price value of these wines are outstanding. Believe me, these wines will brighten your day, salut!