Tuesday, 17 February 2009

TN : Chateau Fonroque 1998, St Emilion Grand Cru, France


Jean Moueix arrived at Chateau Fonroque in 1931. Jean Moueix, originally from farming stock, had settled in Paris with his wife, and there they had set up a successful chain of shops selling dairy produce. But having seen his brother Antoine purchase Chateau Taillefer in 1923, Jean decided that this was also the life for him. He and his betrothed Adèle purchased Fonroque and then settled at the estate, and the property has remained with their descendents and relatives long after their deaths. First their son, Jean-Antoine, took control, but with his passing in 1979 the running of the estate fell to Etablissements Jean-Pierre Moueix. The vineyards saw the installation of a new drainage system and significant replanting. Vineyard management also changed. In the cellar there was new oak, new equipment and, in fact, in 1993, a new cellar, together with bottling and tasting rooms.

The property came to Alain Moueix in 2001. Alain's father's cousin, Christian Moueix, who now heads up the family firm, is the man behind both Chateau Pétrus in Pomerol and Dominus in California's Napa Valley. Alain also runs Chateau Mazeyres in Pomerol. Alain Moueix trained as an agricultural engineer, and then as an oenologist, before working two vintages in New Zealand. Then came further experience in Bordeaux, but more recently, in 1998, he has also established a 40 hectare vineyard in South Africa. Despite the efforts undertaken under the auspices of Etablissements Jean-Pierre Moueix, there were many missing vines and some replanting was necessary. A rolling program was started, although old vines are protected and cherished; these include some Cabernet Franc vines some of which were planted as long ago as 1936. The soils were deemed to be in generally good condition, nevertheless some organic compost and biodynamic preparations were added. The use of chemicals, be they insecticides, fungicides or herbicides, came under due inspection.

The vineyard is ranked as Grand Cru Classé and accounts for 22 hectares of the St Emilion Grand Cru appellation, although only a little more than 17 hectares are planted. In 2003 the vineyards began a program moving towards organic farming, and by 2005 they were fully converted to biological agriculture, as certified by Agrocert. Full biodynamic certification followed, starting with 6 hectares in 2002, and the whole estate was accredited by 2005, with Biodyvin certification provided by Ecocert. The vineyard soils include three of the four main terroirs of St Emilion, led by limestone on the plateau, with some vines also on the côtes and also at the foot of the slopes, where clay dominates, with more silt and sand at the bottom, as well as the iron-rich crasse de fer. The vines are predominately Merlot, accounting for 88% of the vineyard, the remainder is Cabernet Franc. Today they see leaf thinning and bunch thinning, and there is grass planted between the rows to increase competition for water at the surface. Once picked the fruit is sorted on a vibrating table and then by hand, before fermentation in temperature-controlled cement vats, with a maceration between 15 and 30 days. Most of the wine is then run off into oak, half of which is new; 40% goes into new oak, 40% into one-year oak, and the remaining 20% remains in vat. The grand vin is Chateau Fonroque, of which there are 6500 cases produced per annum. It is fined with egg white but not filtered before bottling. Those aliquots destined for the second wine account for up to 25% oft the harvest, and are bottled as Chateau Cartier.

Colour : Black/purple

Aroma : Herbs, blackcurrants, slight plums, cedar, oak

Taste : Herby finish, smooth powdery tannins, cedar, plums, blackcurrant, oak, fruit fades pretty quickly

Alcohol : 13%

Price : 249 SEK

Mark : C+

Website : Chateau Fonroque