The topics of this blog are Armand-Jean du Plessis, Cardinal Duke of Richelieu, and the IDEAL CITY built on his command next to his magnificent CHÂTEAU on the borders of Touraine, Anjou and Poitou, in France.
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Sunday, 2 September 2007
Les Vins de Fronsac
The wine of Fronsac; the Claret of the Dukes of Fronsac and Richelieu
FRONSAC and CANON-FRONSAC are AOCs located very close to Pomerol and to St. Emilion.They produce excellent wine. However, although today the name of Fronsac is not as famous as the two neighbouring names quoted above, this situation was not the case at the XVIIIth century. These wines were preferred at the Court of Versailles. At that time the quality of the wine of Fronsac was well known and many wanted to plant grapes on this 'terroire'. But local aristocrats forbade their farmers to plant vines on their estates. With the Revolution of 1789 everything changed. Lands were confiscated and then re-distributed. The new farmers planted vines everywhere, wanting to produce the maximum quantity. But one cannot produce a high-class wine unless the output is controlled and limited, and unless the soil is neither too wet nor too rich in character.
The topography of the communes of Fronsac name is varied. There are vineyards at some height where limestone is more or less close to surface, and there are areas that are easily flooded on the edges of both the rivers l'Isle and Dordogne. The geological composition of these lower areas is not the same and they do not produce the same wine. On these river banks, Vines rooted in areas rich in fertile alluvia and moisture can provide a grape in very large quantity, but it is far from equalling that produced in the less easily flooded areas. At the Revolution in 1798 these lower fertile areas were planted in vines and much wine was produced. As it was produced within the Fronsac area this wine was sold under the name of Fronsac and so contributed to a strong decline in the reputation of the 'appelation'.
Still today there remain vines in these easily-flooded zones of Fronsac, but their wine cannot not to be sold as a product of the Appelation d'Origine Controlée 'Fronsac'.
In his book 'The Wines of Bordeaux', Professor J-R Roger of the Academy of the wines of France, summed up these wines as follows:
"Nine hundred hectares of beautiful sunny vineyards. Nine hundred hectares of a generous soil where clay, mixed with asterised limestone, on a base of fossilized shells, produces a wine of a incomparable richness. This wine combines the charm of the Bordeaux wine with the strength of Burgundy.
Wine coloured, vigorous, fleshy, frank of taste and with a particular sappy tang and, sometimes, a slightly spiced taste. An excellent wine after a sufficiently prolonged ageing."
1 Le Defi de Fontenil (France) Fronsac "Lot 5"
The "defiant" wine, because Michel Rolland covered the ground in plastic sheeting to prevent excess rain seeping though, which incurred the wrath of the AOC, so it is not allowed Appellation Côntrollée, status and, because of that, cannot be vintage dated. This then is a Vin de Table "Lot 05" rather than 2005. It has a huge, creamy nose, with plenty of ripe, juicy red fruits. Palate has a richness and depth of red fruits that become quite silky and really floods the mouth. Lovely quality of tannins, with a certain dryness and inkiness that is perhaps too much, but the sweetness of fruit comes through. Not quite my style, but very impressive. 91/100
2 Chateau Fontenil (France) Fronsac 2005
From the same vineyards, but made according to AOC rules. Lovely plumy, rich, rounded red fruit character, with a certain plump lusciousness. There is lovely fruit on the palate. A real bite of delicious black plum skins adds acidity and ripe, dark, glossy tannins. Fine quality here and I might prefer this version personally. 90-91/100
3 Chateau Haut-Mazeris (France) Fronsac 2005
Jean-Luc Thunevin (Valandruad) is consultant here There's a lovely freshness about this on the nose, with a fine raspberry fruit quality running through to the palate and lovely fruit quality and crispness to the tannins. 90/100
4 Chateau Richelieu (Fronsac) 2005
Slightly paint-boxy note, reminds me of a decent Cru Beaujolais weirdly enough, but mineral and plumskin qualities start to grip and the richness is there. Balanced in the end. 89/100
5 Le Favorite de Chateau Richelieu (Fronsac) 2005
Slightly more intense, with plenty of meaty, rich, smooth tannic presence and very good length. Good fruit sweetness comes though and there is acidity to balance a very big structure. Promising. 90/100
6 Chateau Rouselle (Fronsac) 2205
Ripe, full, very dense but a certain elegance. Needs time for wood to soften massively dense fruit and tannin structure on the palate. 88/100
1 Chateau Haut-Mazeris (France) Canon-Fronsac 2005
From part of the same vineyard as Haut-Mazeris Fronsac, that just crosses into the Canon-Fronsac appellation. These are 100-year-old vines and the nose has a much more plush, chocolaty depth with a plummy fruit quality. Big, warm and mouthfilling, with solid tannins and fruit but fine balance, this is impressive. 91-92/100
2 Chateau Vrai Canon Bouché (France) Canon-Fronsac 2005
Very bright, dry, a touch paint-boxy aromatics. The sweetness of the fruit comes through on the palate, with a nice grippy depth of blue/black fruit, cherry skin acidity and good tannins without swamping the fruit. 88/100