Fronsac is an appellation for red wines produced in an area in the east of the Bordeaux wine region. It is located close to the northern bank of the Dordogne river, just a few miles to the west of Libourne – the town that gives its name to the Libournais region. Libourne is home to prestigious appellations such as Saint-Emilion and Pomerol, as well as Fronsac itself.
Like Saint-Emilion, just a few miles to the east, Fronsac has a picturesque landscape made up of woodland and hills. It also has a rich history reaching back hundreds of years, when the area was much favored by French nobility.
The theoretically superior title of Canon-Fronsac occupies the southern portion of the wider Fronsac appellation and has traditionally produced its most-respected wines. Wines labeled Fronsac or Canon-Fronsac must be made from grapes grown some distance from the alluvial soils close to the banks of the Dordogne. It is the slightly higher land beginning just a few hundred meters to the north that produces the better vines. The soils here are composed more of sandstone and limestone than clay, giving the vines a certain resistance to hotter weather. In vintages like 2003, when the temperatures in August regularly exceeded 104F (40C), grapes grown in Fronsac produced better-balanced wines than other, more-famous Bordeaux appellations.
Merlot is the dominant grape in Fronsac and is regularly paired with Cabernet Franc. Malbec is used to add complexity to the wines and Cabernet Sauvignon may also be included, although it is less commonly used because it doesn't ripen as well in the appellation's cooler soils.
The second half of the 20th century was a time of improvement in Fronsac's wines, as they attracted attention from further afield than their established European markets. New technology and a change in winemaking philosophy have led to continued progress and the appellation now offers affordable alternatives to the high-priced wines of the Medoc, Pomerol and Saint-Emilion.