The Fonroque estate covers 20 hectares, a few hundred metres north west of the village of Saint-Emilion. The single 17.6-hectare stretch of land where the vineyards stand is spread over a plateau and a west-facing hillside. Its most expressive daily palette emerges at sunset.
The entire Saint-Emilion area was eroded by the movement of the Dordogne river. These historical origins have left their mark, and Fonroque is particularly affected by these geological vagaries. The estate is a beautiful mosaic of three main soil types in the area around the village of Saint-Emilion. The limestone plateau, first of all, is made up of fairly light soils over a starfish limestone rock with a high marine fossil content. Then come a clay-limestone hillside and sandy loamy clay at the foot of the hill. The limestone plateau is home to all the historic Premiers Grands Crus, with the exception of Cheval Blanc and Figeac which sit on the border with Pomerol. This plateau, which surrounds the village, is therefore the historic and premium quality heart of Saint-Emilion.
- The highest part of the estate is on the far west of the plateau. The soils here are fairly shallow, between thirty and sixty centimetres, and rather light and easily draining because they contain more sand than clay. Pebbles are therefore not far away. Roots pass through this soft soil to the rock below, and thus benefit from the moisture that rises from there. This ensures long-lasting, upright wines with the tension of an arrow poised for flight. These terroirs produce elegance. The classic discipline of these wines does not make them immediately seductive during en primeur season, but maturation gives them a refined beauty and delicate finesse that brings their expression to the fore.
- On the limestone-clay hillside, the rock is deeper, so the clay is deposited and mixes with the limestone. Once clay plays a role in the soil, wines broaden. On the palate, the attack immediately creates a sensation of a strong, vast presence. The effect of the limestone comes through in the finish, where it adds energy and freshness. At the top of the hillside, where limestone reigns, wines are therefore very fresh, whilst the area lower down provides a bedrock for the wine.
- • Finally, the sandy loamy clay at the bottom of the hill – with the iron oxide it contains and the limestone brought in by the rain – produces well-rounded, generous wines.
The bottom plots therefore offer a very fruity style, becoming more floral the higher you go.
The wines form a pleasing vertical spectrum up to the limestone plateau, where you find humus, truffle and mushroom aromas.
In Burgundy all of this would be separated out, as the resulting wines are very different in terms of their shape and their aromatic expression. However, Bordeaux has a tradition of blending in the spirit of synergy, making a whole that is better than the sum of its parts. We are looking for refinement, complexity and uniqueness, in which the act of creation (like in painting or music) is key.
We are currently building a new winery facility at Château Fonroque.
It will contain a series of small vats able to hold the perfect quantity for each soil subtype, enabling a hugely subtle touch to the final creative work and allowing each element to shine and enrich the final blend.