Chateau Fonplegade has a long history in St. Emilion. When I say long, I am talking about thousands of years. In fact, this historic property is littered with ancient Roman ruins. The estate has been working with Michel Rolland for years. In 2010, the American owners made a change in management. They hired the smart, energetic, Jean-Christophe Meyrou as their managing director for Fonplegade in St. Emilion as well as L’Enclos in Pomerol.
Jeff Leve: What is the best part of managing two estates in different appellations?
Jean Christophe Meyrou “Pomerol and St. Emilion are so close, yet they are so different. Every year we have to face two different challenge. Fonplégade is based on the Côte Sud, one of the best terroir of St. Emilion. This is a warm and dry area. Most of the area is on limestone. It is difficult to find better conditions in St Emilion. For me and my technical team, it is always a great experience to share our work on two different areas. It brings more experience.
Jeff Leve In 2011, do you think the vintage is stronger in St. Emilion or Pomerol?
Jean Christophe Meyrou “That is difficult to say. It was technically more difficult in St Emilion”.
Jeff Leve How important was selection for you in the 2011 Bordeaux vintage?
Jean Christophe Meyrou “At Fonplégade, we have done the strongest selection never made here. Our final Fonplégade blend and bottling might be 25% 35% less in volume. My decision this year was to “cut my arm” in volume, to make the best quality possible wine in this vintage. When I taste the wine that is now in barrel, I am very pleased”.
Jeff Leve: What are your early thoughts on the vintage?
Jean-Christophe Meyrou “I waited until the start of maloactic fermentation to answer your question. 2011 Bordeaux is now taking another dimension. The global balance of both our wines, (Fonplégade and L’Enclos) are very interesting. They have taken more volume after the first fermentation, a bigger dimension with good acidity level. It reminds me a little bit 2006 in both appellations”.
Jeff Leve: When did you start harvesting at Fonplegade?
Jean Christophe Meyrou “We started with the young Merlot vines September 14. We finished with the Cabernet Franc, September 26. Most of the work took place between September 20 and 21. At Fonplégade, we started with the young vines (6 years old). These plots are used for our second wine, Fleur de Fonplégade”.
Jeff Leve: How did you decide on when to pick?
Jean Christophe Meyrou “The date of harvest was decided when phenolic ripeness was optimum for us. Whatever the vintage, there must be a link ever year, a style that comes from the great terroir. In this case it’s the limestone at Fonplégade”.
Jeff Leve: How does your approach vary in picking and wine making between the appellations?
Jean Christophe Meyrou “First of all, due to the difference of terroir, picking dates are different at L’Enclos and Fonplégade. The same goes for the wine making. For example for this 2011 vintage, we have done a lot of microvinification in barrel at L’Enclos. This was not done at Fonplégade.
Jeff Leve Do you use the same picking and technical teams for both wines?
Jean Christophe Meyrou “Yes, this is critical to keep the same teams on both wines. And to keep this team every year. I do not believe it is good to have a different team for each harvest. We need to keep most of people so they know the vineyard. Harvesting is not an easy job, and you need to do it in a good way”.
Jeff Leve: Did the drought present you with unique challenges this year?
Jean Christophe Meyrou “The hot weather was more of a problem for the young vines under 6/8 years old. Those suffered more and got more stress. Our vineyard is in the St Emilion “Cote Sud”. It is our local highest point. When we have a lot of rain, it does not remain as we have great, natural drainage. When the weather is too warm, our old vines are able to go deep in our limestone terroir to get the freshness they need”.
Jeff Leve: If it wasn’t the draught, what was your biggest issue in the 2011 Bordeaux growing season?
Jean Christophe Meyrou “This year rot was public enemy number 1! We were helped because we have been working organic since 2007. The good surprise of the year for us was to see that our vineyard got super resistant to rot (and other disease). This is a good result of the organic working. After several years without chemicals at all, the vineyard gets stronger. In our world organic is not a marketing world. The owners, Steve and Denise Adams cultivate organic at their Napa Estate as well”.
Jeff Leve: Are you using optical sorting?
Jean Christophe Meyrou “Normally no, this year yes. In order to make a really top 2011, we have decided to get the best optical sorting table, which for us is Pelinc, with one manual before and one after. The selection has been very severe, and our production has been reduced by 30%. This year, I have to say that, especially in St. Emilion, the optical sorting was the right choice for us”.
Jeff Leve: Are you making changes in your use of oak at Fonplegade?
Jean Christophe Meyrou “I am reducing the percentage of new oak to 80%. The other 20% will be aged in “cement eggs”. The idea is to make sure we keep all the minerality coming from our limestone terroir”.
Jeff Leve: We know this is still very early, but at this point, what vintage does 2011 remind you of?
Jean Christophe Meyrou “For both properties, it reminds me a little bit of the 2006.
Jeff Leve In what way does 2011 remind you of 2006?
Jean Christophe Meyrou “Because of the structure in the wine. In both properties, the structure is really very good, with a nice acidity level. It is going to be totally different than a very warm Bordeaux vintage like 2003 for example. 2006 was a good vintage for me. When you taste the wines now, they are just starting to “open the door”. Some wines are exciting! They are elegant with great potential for the future. Like you said, it is very early, 2011 Bordeaux wine could have this profile”.
Jeff Leve Can you please share some technical information about your potential alcohol levels, pH numbers and IPT numbers?
Jean Christophe Meyrou “Alcohol is 13%, pH is 3.4 and our IPT is 90”.