France: Bordeaux

Pomerol and Fronsac

East of Libourne
By Jane Anson

This Guide was last updated on 14 May 2010
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Wine Travel Guide: France, Bordeaux, Pomerol-and-Fronsac

The imposing Château de la Rivière, the largest estate in Fronsac, just metres from the Dordogne River. © Mick Rock/Cephas

Wine Travel Guide: France, Bordeaux, Pomerol-and-Fronsac
Wine Travel Guide: France, Bordeaux, Pomerol-and-Fronsac
The map above does not cover the complete extent of this micro-region. On the left its position is indicated within the main wine region.

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Small-scale vineyards and refreshingly unpretentious properties

You’re going to need a GPS or our maps to find châteaux in Pomerol – despite the big names, many of whom sell for hundreds of dollars a bottle, the properties themselves are mainly small and badly signposted compared to the large estates of the Médoc or even neighbouring Saint Emilion. And the village of Pomerol itself is almost masochistically low-key, not even a High Street and boulangerie strung together to call it a town. There wasn’t even a sign that said Pomerol until a decade ago, when local campaigning got one installed, near to the pretty church that forms the central orientation point. It’s the Howard Hughes of the wine world: wealthy beyond measure, but reclusive and obsessively discreet. What you get instead are small-scale vineyards that follow many Burgundy-style practises where life is centred around the vines, and most properties are refreshingly unpretentious compared to other areas of Bordeaux. And, although you won’t be able to get in (unless you have a very impressive gift of the gab), it’s fun to search out Petrus and le Pin, just so you can do a sharp intake of breath and say, “is that really it??”

The neighbouring appellation and village of Fronsac is less reticent about showing off its charms, and you'll find plenty of walking routes and viewpoints from its steep slopes that overlook the Dordogne River and surrounding valley – and many dynamic young winemakers intent of making Fronsac better known. The Maison des Vins holds regular tastings.

Geography

Located on the right bank of the Dordogne River this district spans out over an area northwest and northeast of Libourne. The Pomerol vineyards to the northeast of Libourne are situated on a plateau with a complex terroir of pebbly and fine gravel with deep layers of clay. The soils have a higher sand content in the west. Particularly important here is the local subsoil crasse de fer which is iron-rich clay, Château Petrus benefits from a stratum which is close to the surface. The vineyards of Fronsac lie on hillsides northwest of Libourne and the best are found on limestone and clay slopes with opaline lime subsoil.

Overall there is a mild maritime climate influenced by the Gulf Stream, with hints of the Mediterranean giving drier summers with higher daytime temperatures than other Bordeaux vineyard areas. September and October bring fine weather allowing grapes to achieve good maturity. The average annual temperature is around 12.8°C and the annual rainfall 800mm. There is low risk of frost due to the influence of the Dordogne and Isle rivers.



Basic information

How to get there

The Pomerol and Fronsac districts are 25kms east of Bordeaux on the outskirts of Libourne. The fastest route from Paris, by car, is to take the A10 which takes you straight to Bordeaux. From there, take the N89 or the D670. By train, the TGV Atlantique service takes you to Bordeaux in less than three hours from Paris, five hours from Lille and seven from Brussels. The Pomerol/Fronsac district can be reached on the Bordeaux-Sarlat line. Also the local bus company Citram Aquitaine services this area. The closest major airport is Bordeaux-Mérignac.

Useful information

Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vins de Bordeaux (CIVB),
1 Cours du XXX Juillet, 33000 Bordeaux

Tel: 05 56 00 22 66
Website: www.bordeaux.com

Syndicat Viticole de Pomerol-Maison du Vin,
Rue Tropchaud, 33500 Pomerol

Tel: 05 57 25 06 88
Email: maisonduvin@vins-pomerol.fr
Website: www.vins-pomerol.fr

Maison des Vins de Fronsac,
Le Bourg, 33126 Fronsac

Tel: 05 57 51 80 51
Email: mdvfronsac@wanadoo.fr

Libourne Tourist Office
Place Abel Surchamp, 33500 Libourne

Tel: 05 57 51 15 04
Website: www.libourne-tourisme.com

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