These two Right Bank appellations aren’t the first that come to mind when you think of Bordeaux. But in terms of value and potential they should be, says Jane Anson, who finds renewed interest and investment in this corner of the Gironde
Fronsac and Canon-Fronsac: Six producers to watch
Owned by the Hervé family since 1607, today run by Jean-Noël Hervé and his son Thomas, who has just returned to the family estate from a finance career in Paris. Jean-Noël is a founder member of Expression de Fronsac, a group of the most dynamic estates in the region that has made great strides in raising quality and renown. Expect a pulse of spice from the Malbec planted in the vineyard here, and smoky oak touches from a classic but still generous wine.
Château Cassagne Haut-Canon
Jean-Jacques Dubois’s vines enjoy one of the best exposures in Fronsac (no doubt why this was the site of part of Cardinal Richelieu’s hunting lodge). Look for his label La Truffière – the name comes from the fungi found on the estate, and you don’t have to look too hard to discern some of the same notes in the rich swirling fruit. The wine has 20% Cabernet Sauvignon that grows on limestone rock, blended with another 20% Cabernet Franc, and 60% Merlot, making a complex, brilliant red, classically structured and ageworthy.
Château de Carles
You can find both Carles and Haut- Carles labels from this estate, owned by Stéphane Droulers and Constance Chastenet de Castaing. It has had a complete transformation over the past 10 years, and the gravity-fed winery seems to be regularly finessed and refined. Today it has all the bells and whistles of the lavish Médoc wineries but on a smaller Right Bank scale.
Château La Vieille Cure
The closest that Fronsac gets to a rock-star estate, La Vieille Cure (means The Old Parsonage) has 20ha of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc, with some vines approaching their 80th birthday. Jean-Luc Thunevin is the consultant and the owners since 1986 are American financiers Colin Ferenbach and Peter Sachs. Plenty of recent replanting means there are many young vines alongside the older ones, and that the complexity should only increase over the coming years.
Château La Dauphine
Owned by supermarket owner Guillaume Halley, with Michel Rolland as consultant. If you want a modern, expertly made example of what Fronsac can produce, this is a great place to start. The 40-hectare La Dauphine is converting to organic farming, and hopes to be certified this year (this is despite losing 90% of its yield in 2013 and 50% in 2012 from the change) because, as director Stéphanie Barousse says, ‘we believe in it’.
Château Les Trois Croix
Run by Bertrand Léon, son of Patrick Léon, the long-time winemaker of Château Mouton Rothschild. Bertrand has also now taken over from his father as consultant at Château d’Esclans in Provence, the makers of Whispering Angel rosé. He is a serious winemaker, as is his father, and their home estate in Fronsac is an excellent wine. The estate itself is at 86m altitude on the highest limestone plateau of Fronsac, planted to 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc.