“Fons Brogiera: a spring surrounded by heather”.
This was the first mention of the name Fombrauge which, for 6 centuries now, has epitomised the elegance of the Grand Cru Classé wines of Saint Emilion. From the Canolle family in the 15th century to Bernard Magrez today, six families have succeeded each other in owning and running Château Fombrauge, providing the estate, which harvested its first grapes in 1599, with a rare stability and a pioneering spirit beyond compare.
Discover this estate, which is not only the largest Grand Cru Classé in Saint-Emilion in terms of surface area but also a window on the history of France.
The largest Grand Cru Classé of Saint Emilion
Fombrauge’s history is linked to 3 families: the Canolles, the Dumas, and the Taffards.
The first mentions of Fombrauge go back about six centuries. In 1466, a horseman by the name of Jacques de Canolle, made himself master of Fombrauge after acquiring the estate.
He was a man of great learning and an important figure, who was honoured for his work as France’s paymaster general and made “bourgeois” of the city of Bordeaux. He quickly set about farming his lands and planted his first vines.
Towards the end of the 17th century, Fombrauge passed by marriage into the hands of the Dumas family.
At the end of that century, councillor Dumas de Fombrauge, the owner at that time and an active member of the “Pépinière”, a Bordeaux Physiocrat club and school for applied farming practices, invested all his efforts into developing high standards of quality at Château Fombrauge.
The current Château Fombrauge wine estate thus benefited from the skills of the talented men that worked there; they enhanced the property and ensured an ongoing presence of skilled specialists to manage the Fombrauge vineyard.
Their success was outstanding. But then came the French Revolution.
In 1794, the descendant of Jacques Dumas was guillotined, and the estate became national property until 1808, when the children of the deceased succeeded in regaining their rights to the property. They finally passed on Château Fombrauge to Ferdinand de Taffard.
Under his ownership, Château Fombrauge won a gold medal at the Paris Universal Exhibition in 1867 and with it recognition for the estate.
Over a century later, in 1987, Château Fombrauge was acquired by a large Danish wine merchant house, which for 12 years restricted the sales of Fombrauge to the Scandinavian markets.
It was in 1999 that Bernard Magrez, a visionary entrepreneur, acquired the estate.
This was the beginning of a period of large-scale renovation works at the property.
Bernard Magrez, keen to restore Château Fombrauge to its former glory, undertook the restructuring of the vineyard, the complete renovation of the cellars, an improvement in hospitality facilities, the restoration and refurbishment of the chartreuse, as well as a re-landscaping of the gardens.
It was finally in September 2012 that Château Fombrauge joined the highest ranks of the Saint-Emilion hierarchy, when it became part of the select group of Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé wines. It was a fitting tribute to the work that had been undertaken and confirmed the growth’s return to its former glory.
With a vineyard covering 58.60 hectares (nearly 145 acres), this unusually large surface area for Saint-Emilion brings a unique typicity to its terroir –a typicity in diversity. The diversity of its soils and the vineyard’s wide range of exposures give the wine of Fombrauge its complexity and identity.
To ensure the full expression of the estate’s rich terroir, Bernard Magrez, the owner since 1999, today combines ancestral savoir-faire with precision viticulture.
The result is a sublime wine, the epitome of a Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé.
The Fombrauge museum
While restructuring the vineyard, we discovered a number of archaeological vestiges.
Scientists at Bordeaux’s archaeological school came and carried out a series of digs at the sites and discovered remains dating from the Iron Age that are exceptionally well-preserved.
These digs also revealed the existence of a stone wall that encircled the spur. This 5-metre-wide parapet is made up of (at least for the inside facing) a series of large blocks of stone which had been greatly disrupted by subsequent ploughings.
The skeleton of a teenager, lying against the inside facing of the parapet, was found under the demolition blocks of the outer wall (see photo). This is the most complete inhumation of the First Iron Age ever studied in the Aquitaine region. The decomposition of the body took place in an enclosed area, but all the elements add up to a summary burial without an offering, which was unusual at this time to say the least.