The wines of Bernard Magrez
Part 3: Château Fombrauge, St Emilion


From Perenne, we flew be helicopter over the Pomerol and St Emilion, the famous appellations of the right bank (above). It looks very different to the left bank, which is dominated by large, grand Châteaux. St Emilion and Pomerol are on a smaller scale. It was particularly thrilling to fly over the picturesque town of St Emilion (below), which looked beautiful in the warm tones of the late afternoon sunshine.  

Our destination was the picture-perfect estate of Château Fombrauge. At 58 hectares under vine, Fombrauge is apparently the biggest estate in St Emilion, and has had a variety of owners in its 400 year history, before Bernard Magrez purchased it in 1999.


It’s typical of an old property in the area: a central house, with two wings – originally, one would have been for the animals and one for the domestic staff. Bernard Magrez has spent a lot of money renovating both the vineyards and the buildings. Eric Bardon, the winemaker here explained that the goal was to raise the quality of the wines to a Grand Cru Classé standard. Tourists can stay here, and the guest rooms are beautifully fitted out.


Fombrauge is at the edge of the St Emilion appellation. There are three main parcels of vines, one of which has calcareous soils and is three kilometres from the Château. In the 1950s an important archaeological site was discovered in this area, dating from 600 BC. Then, in 2004, the archaeologists dug at Fombrauge, making some important findings.


As we visited, the winemaking team were just pressing off the last of the 2008 reds (above). The following week, the wine would go into new barrels. 18 different cooperages are represented at Frombrauge, which has some 800 barrels in the cellar. Elevage in barrel is 14–18 months, and the 2007s were still in barrel when we visited.

The cellar: very Magrez, with small wooden fermentation vats, similar to those at other properties he owns 

The wines 

Château Frombrauge 2004
Lush, aromatic, slightly floral berry and dark cherry nose. The palate is lush yet fresh with lovely focused bright berry fruit and spicy complexity. Good tannic structure under the fruit. For keeping. 91/100

Château Fombrauge 2003
Ripe, sweet aromatic nose with lush cherry and berry fruit, as well as a hint of spice. The palate is ripe and lush with dense fruit and some grippy tannins. An intriguing mix of sweet fruit and firm structure. 90/100

Château Fombrauge 2005
Deep coloured. Smooth, focused sweet dark fruits nose is tight with pure raspberry and blackberry fruit, as well as some lushness. Super-concentrated palate has masses of pure, focused fruit with lovely structure. Freshness allied with ripeness and concentration. Lush but firm. 94/100

Also in this series:

Wines tasted 11/08  
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