Why Château La Vieille Cure is Essential
Situated in the shadow of nearby Saint-Émilion and Pomerol, the Right Bank Bordeaux appellation of Fronsac may not immediately ring a bell. But it wasn't that long ago (the 18th century, so "long ago" is relative) that this pocket of land along the Isle River north of the Dordogne was the bee's knees for aristocratic wine lovers. Phylloxera and successive world wars dampened the area's prospects, but a handful of estates have helped resurrect its reputation — chief among them, Château La Vieille Cure (pronounced lah VEE-yay coor).
If there is a better value wine from Bordeaux, I have not yet encountered it. Regularly priced in the low $30 range, the estate's grand vin punches well above its weight class. Several factors combine at Château La Vieille Cure to yield its bullseye precision: Merlot vines of more than 70 years old, limestone-stone rich soils to aid proper drainage from the roots, and an ideal southwest exposure. But there is also a wonderful old soul quality to the wine that I believe comes from the ample presence of Cabernet Franc — a spicy, tomato-leaf tone that reminds us that nature's panorama of aromas is not just limited to fruit, flowers and the familiar.
Jean-Luc Thunevin of Saint-Émilion fame oversees the winemaking, along with consultant Jean-Philippe Fort. While the current iteration of the estate began in 1986 when Americans Peter Sachs and Colin Ferenbach purchased and renovated the property, its viticultural lineage stretches back to at least the 1700s. Whether the soil has memory remains to be seen, but there is a genuine expression of something ancient in this wine's noble tones. I cannot imagine a better place to start in Bordeaux for the uninitiated, especially given the price.