Saint-Émilion is situated on the right bank of the Dordogne River and is a region that produces some of the most elegant and prestigious wines of the world. For centuries winemaking has been a way of life. This year Saint-Émilion-Pomerol-Fronsac and its satellite appellations will be celebrating the 20th anniversary of Saint-Émilion’s inscription on the World Heritage List.
Saint-Émilion was established in the 12th century by John Lackland, King of England. A picturesque region with rolling hills, is composed of vineyards, castles, monasteries, and churches. Today, Saint-Émilion and its surrounding jurisdictions have become a center for wine, culture, architecture and gastronomy. Saint-Émilion is a living, evolving, historic landscape that needs to be celebrated and preserved.
In 1999, the Jurisdiction of Saint-Émilion was the first vineyard to be listed as a World Heritage Site. To celebrate the 20th Anniversary, Saint-Émilion will be hosting a joyful and festive celebration on June 28, 29th, and 30th of 2019. The three breathtaking days will be marked with concerts, farmers markets, conferences, historical reenactments, wine tastings, illumination of monuments, walking tours and a gastronomique banquet. The celebrations will continue all year-long with various projects and festivities.
The region is composed of ten AOC (Saint-Émilion, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru, Lussac Saint-Émilion, Puisseguin Saint-Émilion, Montagne Saint-Émilion, Saint-Georges Saint-Émilion, Pomerol, Lalande de Pomerol, Fronsac and Canon Fronsac). It is a small region, but they produce 10% of all Bordeaux wines.
In honor of 20th Anniversary, I had the opportunity to partake in the celebrations in New York City. A wine and food event for select media was hosted by Marie Ponsonnet, a Bordeaux native and sommelier at the elite NYC institution, Le Bernardin. The evening was a celebration of Saint-Émilion with six impressive wines spanning Saint-Émilion, Pomerol and Fronsac. It was an evening of sharing stories and celebrating the history, diversity and richness of this legendary wine region.
Exploring The Wines of Saint-Émilion – Pomerol – Fronsac
Chateau Tour Bayard, Montagne Saint-Émilion 2014 ($29.99)
This wine is from the mountains of Saint-Émilion and is one of the largest satellite appellations. Montagne Saint-Émilion is going through an interesting renaissance, with younger generation of winemaker taking over. Julien Richard(32 yrs) is taking over winemaking from his parents. Julien implemented meticulous and environmentally friendly practices in the vineyard. The wine is a classic right bank blend with 80% Merlot and the rest Cabernet franc. This area is characterized by beautiful hillsides with great sunlight exposure, and the terroir is composed of rich clay-limestone soils, which give lots of character to the wines. The wine is relatively modern in style with softer tannins and bright fruit. A gorgeous wine with notes of blackberries, spice and cocoa.
Chateau Haut-Lariveau, Fronsac 2009 ($45.00)
The next wine we tasted was from Fronsac. The 2009 is 100% Merlot from a beautiful region with rolling hills and terraced vineyards. The wine is certified organic, the owners Grégoire and Bénédicte Hubau have deep respect for the soils and thus very little intervention takes place in the vineyards and the cellars. The wine is vibrant and expressive, from the beautiful 2009 vintage, which experienced lots of sun, and great growing conditions all year-long. The exceptional vintage allowed for full ripeness and beautiful vibrant fruit. Thanks to the age(2011) the wine has some nice development of spicy notes.
Chateau Tertre De La Mouleyre Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 2014 ($75.00)
Winemaker Éric Jeanneteau takes a natural approach to winemaking with natural fermentation. Éric grew up in vineyards, and was born and raised to make wine. He is making a grand wine on a small estate of only 1 1/2 hectares. He does not use commercial yeast, just natural yeast, which is quite rare in Bordeaux. Éric is very hands off, the wine is neither fined nor filtered. The 2014 is elegant and extremely polished. The tannins, fruit and alcohol are well-balanced.
Chateau Fonroque Saint-Émilion Grand Cru Classé 2014 ($39.99)
Chateau Fonroque was purchased by the legendary Moueix family in 1931. Today the winery is owned by an independent family and Alain Moueix is the winemaker. The estate is certified biodynamic. Not wanting to be trendy, Alain Moueix simply believes biodynamic is a way of life. Many say because of Bordeaux’s humidity, biodynamic is not possible. Chateau Fonroque is a perfect example that biodynamic practices work, even in Bordeaux. The wine is crisp and focused with bright acidity and layers of texture.
Chateau Bourgneuf Pomerol 2014 ($50.00)
This wine was very special to all those at the celebration, as the winery belongs to the family of our host, Marie Ponsonnet. Marie, along with her sister and brother are the 8th generation at Chateau Bourgneuf, one of the oldest family owned property in Pomerol. Marie’s sister, Frédérique joined the winery in 2008. Marie said her sister has brought a young level of energy to this historic Chateau. She brings, precision and an awareness of the environment to the vineyard. They are not certified, but Frédérique farms biodynamically. The wine is a classic Pomerol, 90% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. The vines are planted on gravelly clay that is enhanced by an iron-rich subsoil . This iron rich soil gives the wine a black truffle component as the wine ages. The wine is dense, layered and complex, with perfectly round tannins.
Tertre Rotebouef, Saint-Émilion Grand Cru 2011 ($119.00)
Tertre Rotebouef is known in the wine world to be a very edgy wine and owner Francois Mitjavile has developed a cult like following. He produces only 2,000 cases a year from his tiny vineyard, which is situated on a steep slope on the edge of a limestone plateau. The wine is concentrated but not heavy. Ripeness is his goal. To gain ripeness you need warmth, so Francois trains the vines in a different way. He decided to go much lower to the ground and do cordon training, by having vines closer to the earth it provides warmth to the fruit. The 2011 has nice ripe fruit that is very vibrant. The wine has a lot of power and richness, but as Marie say, the palate is not overwhelmed by the wine. There is great depth, length and intensity to this hedonistic wine.
***Pictures Courtesy Lydia Lee Photography***