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
Top 8 buys from Fronsac and Canon-Fronsac
Château la Dauphine, Fronsac 2010
Fleshy blackberry and bilberry fruit, good tannins and a menthol/ clove finish. Lots of ambition and structure from 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc with 12 months’ oak ageing (40% new). Denis Dubourdieu was consultant for this 2010, replaced since then by Michel Rolland. Expect more recent vintages to step up the gloss, as they brought Rolland in to make the wine more approachable when young.
Price: £17-£20 Asset Wines, Millésima, The Wine Society
Château Grand Renouil, Canon-Fronsac 2010
100% Merlot from 60-year-old vines. Needs time after opening as it still has tight tannins. Once softened it will be full of liquorice, bitter chocolate and blueberries. There is alcohol here, but the excellent balance of acidity and tannins gives it a round mouthfeel rather than heat. Just 1,000 cases made on average.
Price: £28 Fields Morris & Verdin
Château les Trois Croix, Fronsac 2010
A touch of glamour from Bertrand Léon, the son of former Mouton Rothschild winemaker Patrick Léon. This 80% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc blend majors on oak toast (18 months’ barrel ageing, 30% new), plum fruits and that unmistakable Right Bank generosity. Intelligent winemaking and well priced.
Price: £18.34 Millésima
Château du Carillon, Fronsac 2010
Excellent value for this 100% Merlot from a small estate in conversion to organic viticulture. Soft toasty oak, there is cinnamon and a touch of black pepper with a cheerful lift on the finish. This is starting to open up in a vintage where many Bordeaux have hardly began to budge, and it’s impressive to get an early-drinking wine that still has complexity and interest.
Price: N/A UK www.carillon.vignoblesdeterroirs.com
Château Dalem, Fronsac 2011
This 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc blend translates into a full, high-powered glass that is barely typical of the 2011 vintage, but it is expertly handled by one of the star estates of the appellation. The property is owned by Brigitte Rullier and is farmed organically. The extraction is expertly held back just before it becomes brutal. An indulgent taste of the Right Bank.
Price: £10.25 Cork Fine Wines, Fine & Rare, Le Bon Vin
Château la Rivière, Fronsac 2012
One of the biggest Fronsac estates at 65ha, planted to 88% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Malbec. This is a polished, contemporary wine. Dense fruit structure, with excellent extraction and firm and enveloping tannins. Not the best vintage from this excellent organic estate but still a great-value wine that tastes more expensive than it is.
Price: £18.99 Berkmann, Coe Vintners, Direct Wines
Château du Gazin, Canon- Fronsac 2012
A lovely mix of power and juiciness, full of fresh acidity without being tart. This is a blend of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon with a dash of Malbec grown on clay-limestone soils. Owner Georges-Antoine Robert took over his 30ha family property in 2004 at the age of 25. This is a classic take on Fronsac – ageing is in a blend of cement tanks and (no new oak) barrels that translates into subtle but highly attractive brambly fruits.
Price: £11.99 Waitrose
Château Tessendey, Fronsac 2012
From the D’Arfeuille family of Château La Serre in St-Emilion, this is a small property with just 7ha of clay-limestone terroir. This blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc is elegant with a good lift on finish. Tannins still need to soften, but this is dense and well weighted for the vintage, and feels like a classical Fronsac, with just 20% new oak and cement tank ageing for the rest. Well-priced and enjoyable.
Price: £9.58 (2010) Alastair Nugent