For centuries, the vine rows of Château Fonplégade have been the source for some of Saint-Emilion’s most coveted winegrapes. Grown in ideal limestone and clay soils, and nourished in drier years by the deep under-ground water source that feeds the fountain of Fonplégade, our vines benefit from a harmonious relationship between the elements—a relationship that yields wines of uncommon grace and grandeur. As stewards of these cherished vine rows, we cultivate our vineyard using strict ECOCERT organic practices, both to preserve the purity and character of our grapes, and to ensure the legacy of Château Fonplégade for generations to come.
The vineyard of Château Fonplégade is ideally situated on the south hillside of Saint-Emilion. With an aspect that allows for ample sunshine, this sloping location also contributes to the well-drained nature of our soils. Because grapes realize their full potential when challenged by moderate water stress, these well-drained soils ensure that our vines thrive in years with more precipitation. In turn, the deep water that feeds our famous fountain provides just enough moisture to sustain the plants and extend the growing season in hot, dry years. At Fonplégade, providence has blessed our 18.5-hectare estate with soils of rare and perfect composition for growing world-class Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The terroir of our vineyard offers seven levels of flat and terraced vineyard sections, as well as three distinctive soil types (limestone, clay and sand), each of which imparts its own distinctive expression of minerality to our wines.
Building on this natural diversity, Château Fonplégade is intimately farmed as a tapestry of 27 individual vineyard blocks, each featuring various clones, rootstocks, soil types, planting densities and vine ages. With more than 10 clones of Merlot, and an average vine age of more than a quarter century (with our oldest vines dating back to 1954), the wine grapes of Château Fonplégade provide an artist's palette of aromas and flavors for our winemaking team. Though our lovingly tended old vines are a source of great pride, and a key element in creating nuanced and sophisticated wines, we actively replant sections of our vineyard when necessary to ensure the highest standards of quality. As our vineyard has evolved, we have transitioned to the most beneficial modern viticultural practices, with an emphasis on clonal selection, high-density planting of 8,500 vines per hectare, advantageous row directions and green harvests to ensure ideal fruit development. These practices are combined with a meticulous hands-on approach to farming that sees every vine touched by a human hand a minimum of 10 to 15 times each growing season.
In addition to our transition to organic farming, which was certified "Agriculture Biologique" by ECOCERT in early 2013, the other great contribution to the exceptional quality of our grapes has been our focus on low yields. Since 2003, we have emphasized fewer clusters per vine, and smaller grape clusters, reducing overall yields by approximately 30 percent. The result is perfectly balanced vines filled with pristine clusters of richly flavored grapes.
At Château Fonplégade, we are proud to be one of the pioneers of organic viticulture here on Bordeaux's legendary Right Bank. For us, a return to organic farming is a return to the prestigious winegrowing heritage of Saint-Emilion. The unique heritage of this historic vineyard landscape was recognized in 1999, when the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) designated Saint-Emilion as a World Heritage site. As the old Roman paths above our vineyard attest, winegrapes have been grown at Fonplégade for centuries upon centuries. For all of this time, the vineyard did more than endure, it thrived without the use of modern chemicals.
We believe there are no "shortcuts" or "quick fixes" to great viticulture, and that excellence is achieved through a virtuous and intimate relationship with our vineyard. We also believe that it is our privilege and responsibility to be good stewards to our land so that it may be preserved for generations to come. But most important, we believe in our vineyard—its complex character, natural vitality and innate greatness.
To allow this greatness to shine, we farm Château Fonplégade without the use of any synthetic chemicals, using our hearts, our hands and two very helpful horses. We proudly completed our three-year "Agriculture Biologique" certification through ECOCERT in early 2013.
Though the greatness of a wine begins in the vineyard, this greatness is preserved and enhanced in the winery, where innumerable small details shape a wine’s path from grape to glass. At Château Fonplégade, we believe in innovation in the service of inspiration. With this in mind, we have completely renovated and revitalized our centuries-old winemaking facility, creating one of the most state-of-the-art wineries on Bordeaux’s Right Bank. Given all of the tools of great modern winemaking—from a perfect sorting system to precision temperature calibration during fermentation to a visionary cooperage program—our team is able to control every aspect of the winemaking process.
At the same time, we embrace modern techniques only when they are the best tools. We have also learned winemaking lessons from ages past—simple but important ideas, such as farming our vines organically to preserve the purity of the flavors, or picking by hand using small boxes to ensure that the fruit comes in pristine and undamaged condition. In the winery, we continue to handle our grapes using the gentlest means possible—using techniques such as gravity flow and hand punch-downs—and we ferment in numerous small lots to preserve the distinctive character of our vineyard’s 27 individual blocks. During aging, our wines benefit from a focus on the finest new French oak, with a pioneering barrel program that incorporates both traditional Bordeaux cooperage and classic Burgundy barrels, as well as the new "Fleur de Quintessence” cooperage—a barrel of incomparable quality that we partnered with renowned cooper Tonnellerie Quintessence to launch in 2009. As part of our focus on microvinifications, we also employ a half dozen egg-shaped concrete tanks—tools that allow us to express a pure, elegant and aromatic expression of our terroir.
Though each of our wines is as unique as a fingerprint, their creation is guided by the same artistry, ideals, and uncompromising commitment to quality. Whether crafting Château Fonplégade or Fleur de Fonplégade, the goal is the same. Guided by famed Oenologists Michel Rolland and Stephane Derenoncourt, we strive to create wines that embody the rich, distinctiveness of their vineyard origins.
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