Back in 2012 I purchased and had the pleasure of drinking this 2001 Chateau de Fonbel, Saint-Emilion Grand Cru. It’s a Bordeaux blend made predominantly from Merlot grapes but includes Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and a small amount of Carmenere. Forgetting my love of good quality Bordeaux (especially St Emilion and Pomerol), what most excited me about tasting this wine was the fact it’s produced by Alain Vauthier, the proprietor of Chateau Ausone. For those who don’t know, Chateau Ausone is one of only two St Emilion Grand Cru Classe A (the top marque within the Saint Emilion classification) and considered by many to produce the best wine within the appellation, with Alain Vauthier being the top producer. As I’m sure you can imagine, with such heritage I had high hopes and expectations for this wine.
Although perhaps overshadowed by the great Bordeaux vintages of 2000 and 2005, this 2001 vintage is by no means poor, and with more than 10 years under its belt at the time of tasting, this bottle was already drinking well and I predicted would happily keep a few more years yet (would be great to find one now and see if I was right)!
I opened this bottle and allowed to breathe for about 3 hours at room temperature before tasting. On first tasting I got leathery notes with fairly high tannins and a taste of sharp blackberries. After a further couple of hours though the wine really developed, tasting sweeter and smoother with strawberry notes coming through, and that subtle jammy flavour (often present with Merlot) presenting itself just enough to be pleasant and not overpowering. Not surprising for a bottle more than 10yrs old, there was quite a bit of sediment but some careful decanting would ensure the experience is not tainted.
As with most good red Bordeaux wines, this bottle would pair fantastically with roasted Lamb and hard cheeses with a medium to high fat content. The higher tannins would really stand up to fattier meat dishes but if serving with more lean dishes, as per my above comments I would suggest leaving it decanted for a little longer, allowing the the wine to open up and the subtleties to emerge.
At around £25 a bottle (at time of purchase), it’s not a cheap bottle of wine but when you consider the same vintage of Chateau Ausone might cost you around £500 a bottle and Ausone’s second wine La Chapelle d’Ausone 2001 retailing at around £175 a bottle, I think it represents a good quality Bordeaux at great value.
- Price: £25 a bottle (at time of purchase).
- Producer: Chateau de Fonbel (Alain Vauthier)
- Origin: France, St Emilion
- Style: Bordeaux blend, with high merlot content (for a soft and velvety finish).
- Food Pairing: Roasted meat, lamb especialy, hard (higher fat) cheeses.