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Château de Fonbel, Saint-Emilion 2018

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Owned by the Vauthier family of Ausone fame, this is once again proving to be an excellent name to follow, A successful blend of 70% merlot, 20% cabernet sauvignon and 10% carmenère. Scented, ripe and full.
Price: £21.00 Bottle
Price: £126.00 Case of 6
In Stock
Code: CS11261

Wine characteristics

  • Red Wine
  • Medium-bodied
  • Merlot
  • 75cl
  • Now to 2030
  • 14% Alcohol
  • oak used but not v. noticeable
  • Cork, natural

St Emilion, Pomerol

Saint-Emilion

There is an ancient history of wine making in the area of St Emilion, with Roman viticulture attested to in the poetry of Ausonius after whom the Première Grand Cru Château Ausone is named. The vineyards and much visited town have been awarded UNESCO world heritage List status as a cultural landscape and are enjoying a period of particular dynamism and prosperity.

Merlot is the dominant grape here with cabernet franc in earnest support and some supporters of the more difficult to ripen cabernet sauvignon. The soils, damper and cooler than those of the Médoc, are responsible for this and merlot performs beautifully in the clay, limestone, gravel and other alluvial deposits that make up the vineyard soils. Much is made of the clay based soils of the area but the picture is a broader than that.

If we ignore the areas down by the river and on its flood plain and the satellites that we discuss elsewhere, there remain two main areas where the quality of the wines speaks for the...
Saint-Emilion

There is an ancient history of wine making in the area of St Emilion, with Roman viticulture attested to in the poetry of Ausonius after whom the Première Grand Cru Château Ausone is named. The vineyards and much visited town have been awarded UNESCO world heritage List status as a cultural landscape and are enjoying a period of particular dynamism and prosperity.

Merlot is the dominant grape here with cabernet franc in earnest support and some supporters of the more difficult to ripen cabernet sauvignon. The soils, damper and cooler than those of the Médoc, are responsible for this and merlot performs beautifully in the clay, limestone, gravel and other alluvial deposits that make up the vineyard soils. Much is made of the clay based soils of the area but the picture is a broader than that.

If we ignore the areas down by the river and on its flood plain and the satellites that we discuss elsewhere, there remain two main areas where the quality of the wines speaks for the terroir.

The first is up on the plateau that abuts the border with Pomerol. A continuation of the plateau of sand and gravel that defines the best wines of Pomerol, this area is home to the most sought after of all Saint-Emilions, Château Cheval Blanc. The second group of properties are to be found on an escarpment east of the town of Saint-Emilion, where a thin layer of topsoil overlays a bedrock of sandstone on south-facing slopes that end suddenly and precipitously. Though the best wines of the second group are less highly regarded than the best of the first group there are superb wines in both.

Unlike its Pomerol next door, the wines of Saint-Emilion have access to a classification system akin to that of the 1855 Médoc version. Established in 1955, the Saint-Emilion classification is redrawn every ten years, which always causes a legal rumpus as demoted properties seek redress for the insult. Wines are assessed on several criteria such as soils, aspect and vine age and are tasted for typicity. Once accepted at one of the three levels the wines are required to adhere to stricter appellation rules than their supposedly lesser fellow estates with regard to yields and ageing.

The levels of the classification begin with the Grand Cru Classé properties of which there are several hundred (there are 800 or so estates in Saint-Emilion in total). Above this is Première Grand Cru, with 18 member currently, and at the top the Premières Grands Crus (A) which consists of the Châteaux Cheval Blanc, Ausone, Angelus and Pavie, the latter two having been promoted in 2012.

At its best Saint-Emilion should be should be rich, full-coloured, spicy and apparently sweet, and the best properties balance these qualities with finesse length. No white wines are made.

Pomerol

Despite not having a classification system like the Médoc and Saint-Emilion, Pomerol has an enviable reputation for some of the very best Bordeaux wines that can fetch eye-watering prices. However, at its best Pomerol produces sublime wines with a rich, almost fleshy, velvety flavour. It's worth buying the best which are never cheap.

The appellation is tiny, only 785 hectares, but within this flat but bijou acreage there are a great number of small estates with few of the grand châteaux that crop up throughout other Bordeaux districts. The land is effectively a great bank rising in gentle terraces from the Dordogne and Isle rivers, consisting of a good deal of clay leavened by gravel and sand in varying quantities depending on where you stand. The sandiest slopes, making the lightest wines, are on the lower slopes close to the Dordogne, and the best terroir is considered to be up in the north-eastern corner where the clay is at its thickest. Here you will find the big names of the appellation such Châteaux Pétrus, La Fleur Pétrus, Lafleur and Vieux Château Certan. Nowhere is more than 40 metres above sea level.

Merlot is at least 80% of planting and is similarly represented in any blended wines, though many are pure merlot. Cabernet franc is runner up here, with cabernet sauvignon and malbec also permitted.

The influential Moueix family have been incredibly important in the development of Pomerol’s reputation as a fine wine appellation, both as négociants and as owners of some of the finest properties. Pétrus, Lafleur Pétrus, Hosanna and Providence are all under their ownership.
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Château de Fonbel

This consistently successful and solid Saint-Emilion has been owned by the Vauthier family, who also own Ausone, since 1971, meaning it has been fortunate enough to benefit from the Ausone’s expert team for several years.

Unusually, it is planted with 20% cabernet sauvignon and 7% petit verdot, which gives the wine structure and keeping qualities whilst also adding to its complexities. The rest of the blend is 70% merlot and 3% carmenère, which spends 10 months in oak (30% of it new), producing a wine that will age for between five and 12 years.

Bordeaux Vintage 2018

This is an exceptionally good vintage for Bordeaux, with the best reds probably eclipsing those of any vintage in recent memory.

In our visits to Bordeaux in early April 2019 we tasted some of the finest clarets we have ever tasted en primeur. The wines are intense, powerful and most have excellent ageing potential. Colours are deep, alcohol levels are between half a degree and a full degree higher than recent averages, and tannins are ripe. Yet the best wines have maintained freshness, energy and most importantly balance.

And it’s not just the top wines that shone in 2018; many super wines were made at the more affordable end of the price spectrum, and this offer includes plenty of examples.
But whilst all the top communes and appellations made a number of truly remarkable wines, 2018 is not a universally fabulous vintage. It is much less consistent than 2016, 2010 and 2009, and considerable care was needed in selecting the wines we wanted to offer our members.

The keys to making...
This is an exceptionally good vintage for Bordeaux, with the best reds probably eclipsing those of any vintage in recent memory.

In our visits to Bordeaux in early April 2019 we tasted some of the finest clarets we have ever tasted en primeur. The wines are intense, powerful and most have excellent ageing potential. Colours are deep, alcohol levels are between half a degree and a full degree higher than recent averages, and tannins are ripe. Yet the best wines have maintained freshness, energy and most importantly balance.

And it’s not just the top wines that shone in 2018; many super wines were made at the more affordable end of the price spectrum, and this offer includes plenty of examples.
But whilst all the top communes and appellations made a number of truly remarkable wines, 2018 is not a universally fabulous vintage. It is much less consistent than 2016, 2010 and 2009, and considerable care was needed in selecting the wines we wanted to offer our members.

The keys to making excellent wines in 2018 were firstly choosing the right time to harvest, and secondly ensuring gentle handling of the grapes during the winemaking process. Picking too early meant good acidity in the wines but a lack of phenolic ripeness, whereas harvesting too late led to over-alcoholic wines lacking freshness. The grapes at harvest were tiny in 2018, and the skins were packed with tannin. Only the gentlest of extractions was necessary in the winery.

In addition to the many red wines there were many excellent dry whites, which despite the heat and dryness of the vintage also maintained admirable freshness.

2018 was another vintage of extremes. One of the wettest early seasons on record was followed by one of the driest and sunniest summers. The mild, damp spring encouraged a widespread and aggressive mildew attack. This had a devastating effect on some châteaux’s yields, with those producers employing organic and biodynamic practices particularly badly affected. Hail also struck in parts of the southern Médoc, Sauternes and the Côtes de Bourg.
But then the clouds parted and the sun shone… and shone. Between the beginning of July and the harvest there was 25% more sun than the 30-year average, and rainfall was tiny – just 46mm fell throughout the entire summer at Château Margaux. The harvest was very long and unhurried, with growers able to decide exactly when each plot of vines should be picked.

In conclusion, it was possible in 2018 to make superlative wines, as long as you were vigilant in the vineyards during the growing season, when choosing the optimum harvest date, and then in managing the vinifications in the cellar. Not everyone got these three vital elements right, and so careful selection has been key for us.
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