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Essential Winemakers of France ©Opening a Bottle

Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux

Primary Grapes: Merlot, Cabernet Franc

Primary Appellations/Cru: Saint-Émilion AOC (Grand Cru Classé)

American Importer: AP Wine Imports



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The Wines…

Château Fonroque is a biodynamic and organic estate that makes only two wines each year: Château Fonroque and a second vin, Château Cartier.

The Château Fonroque is the star, a cloudy, brooding yet vital blend of Merlot (80%) and Cabernet Franc (20%). I’ve turned to this wine several times, including on Christmas dinner, and it never fails to impress with its velveting texture, and hints of decadence. Calling Château Cartier a second vin feels a bit backhanded: if anything, this 100% Merlot simply feels like a younger, more eager version of the grand vin.

Winemaker Alain Moueix’s vinification techniques rely on tradition, utilizing gravity to soften the handling, fermentation takes place in temperature-controlled cement vats, and aging is gentle with only 40% of the wine’s elevage occurring in new oak.

The town of Saint-Émilion in the Bordeaux wine region, an UNESCO World Heritage site.

The town of Saint-Émilion in the Bordeaux wine region, an UNESCO World Heritage site.

…And Why They Stand Out

Winemaker Alain Moueix has single-handedly wiped out years of bias against Merlot on my part, and for that I thank them. Open this wine with a burger and you’ll agree.

But there is more to honor here than than just quality. I admire the way this estate has contributed to Saint-Émilion’s future. Alain Moueix was one of the first winemakers in Bordeaux to adopt biodynamic and organic viticulture. These practices are a tricky proposition in this corner of France, where the prevalence of pests, mildew and rot had made chemical treatments a given over recent decades. Thanks in part to his work — which began in 2002 — Saint-Émilion has emerged as as a leading appellation in France for organic and biodynamic wines. In fact, beginning with the 2019 vintage, only organic and/or biodynamic wines can be labeled as “Saint-Émilion.” It is a staggeringly ambitious move by this community of winemakers, and it ought to be celebrated and supported by wine lovers like us.

Start your Saint-Émilion explorations with Château Fonroque and toast to Alain for helping initiate a greener future for this storied Right Bank appellation.

Visiting Château Fonroque

In-person tastings are welcome at Château Fonroque. An appointment is highly recommended.

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