Alain Moueix

Twenty hectares a few hundred metres north-west of the town of Saint-Émilion. It's not far, say the children, who make everything from scratch and move forward.

Chateau Fonroque is for me linked to the feminine. My great-grandmother and my paternal grandmother, as well as my mother, are those who first and in various ways fostered my attachment to this place. Every Thursday afternoon I was the object of the generosity of my great-grandmother Adèle, whose sociable and caring attitude applied to all. A pantagruesome snack of grape pie served as the gourmet basis for this ritual. A box of small coloured pencils was systematically added, containing the three primary shades plus two secondary ones and the colouring book that went with them. I remember meditatively filling these paper books and getting caught up in the comforting drone of conversation. Later on, these visits became rarer, but always favoured by my grandmother. When she arrived at Fonroque, this loving woman, always perfectly groomed, took off her shoes to put on rougher ones and walk freely on the heavy earth of the hillside. Picking and gathering were on the agenda and we took advantage of the few chickens and rabbits that still occupied the area around the house. Anna and Gilbert, the people in charge of the vineyard, greeted us with their exclamations and complimented the inevitable growth of which I was proud as if I were the architect. In those days the trimming of the vines was done by hand with shears. And Gilbert still had that gnarled, massive look, his body taken over at any moment by the recent memory of the daily effort required to maintain the 17.5 hectares of vines for which he was responsible. Fertilisers have put an end to these manual practices, as the growth rhythms generated by these inputs are impossible to follow.

This is how it has always been done. After the flowering in June, the fruit sets. The fertilised flowers become small green grapes. Summer arrives. The leaves are removed to make way for the sun. The light does its job.

No doubt the feminine presence that accompanies my first memories of Fonroque is partly responsible for my fertile apprehension of this place. This fertility, however poetic it may be when associated with the idea of the natural, the emergence of life, the fertility of the spirit and the imagination, is not always as spontaneous as one might suppose. It requires a complex set of favourable elements to give its radiance. Appropriate support and favourable conditions are defined according to criteria whose objectivity varies from person to person, over time and with different sensibilities. I inherited a particular landscape from which to create continuity while articulating a necessary renewal. It was necessary to open up the place to a management that certainly seeks the healthy economic success of its object, but to feed it with a vision and strategies oriented not towards the use of the property but towards its blossoming for its own sake, not only towards its maintenance but also towards its development and viability. This reflection passes through the economic sphere to finally go beyond it to a more global awareness and responsibility that puts people and the future at the heart of the reflection.

Postpone action to enter a border world filled with little fuss and great attention.

My team and I have carried out simple and clear actions here since I took office, transparent as to the research and trial and error to which they were sometimes subjected before stabilising. They have been based, willy-nilly, on the variable latitude we had and on the state of the material or the grape varieties we inherited. A strong creative constraint was born from this particular situation. It pushed us towards more immediate communication with the land. To pay more attention to the place and to trust its own resources. I know that Fonroque can be the object of a very bright future, built on long experience and a detailed knowledge of the property. This empirical background combined with future contributions will help to give this complex terroir a powerful and original expression that is still in an exciting state of potential today.

Fine tannins, structure, chiselled, minerality, pure rising finish saturated with momentum, harmony, balance. It is a mantric recitation that produces its effects.

However, we have already moved the wine produced at Fonroque from the Romanesque to the Gothic period by producing lace and verticality, especially from clay slopes which are more inclined to produce full-bodied wines. This movement of refinement of the result can go even further by using the tamed power of the hillside wine to divert and reinforce the expression of elegance. Merlot, on its limestone soils, can produce fabulous, evocative wines that are lively and deep if given the means to express them. My personal attraction to the natural sciences is old. The majesty and mischief of the plant, the mineral, its crystalline virtue and its opalescent repose, instruct me on many levels. And I believe that this predisposition allows me to appreciate certain places or, conversely, to be deeply saddened by their level of deterioration. I love Fonroque but I take as much pleasure and engage as much passion in Mazeyres where I have been running the vineyard for twenty six years on a terroir with fundamentally different characteristics and environment. By practising biodynamics, by living with an artist with a dense universe who has deployed her creative space in the heart of our place of life, I have increased my sensitivity to the environment and my fine awareness of sound, visual and, more broadly, vibratory stimuli. It is an opportunity that impacts my entire life and which I hope will reflect on the quality and beauty of my wines.

When the soil is doing well, you can see the mischief in the clovers and purslane, and a cheeky whisper runs through the poppies.

I have always seen Fonroque as a precious vineyard comparable to a wild horse whose domestication cannot be entrusted to anyone who does not know how to “whisper in the ear” of the place and converse with its potential. A wine-growing land for a very long time, cultivated without interruption with traditional methods that have never favoured chemistry, the symbiosis between the terroir and the plant has not been slowed down or altered. But I felt it was essential to go further. At various levels, the practice of biodynamics satisfies my expectations. It opens up concrete areas of practice, fields of exploration and dynamic reflections about the terroir. For not everything is given by the excellence of a place. If the quality of the soil plays a predominant role in the greatness of the resulting wine, a great terroir also evolves over time by being nourished by its encounter with the vegetation. The great vineyards are also created by the vine. The roots, the rootlets, the complex and teeming panoply of micro-organisms that surround them affect the terroir, which is nothing other than the result of the degradation of the mother rock by life. The vine thus participates in the creation and maintenance of optimal conditions for its survival. It enters into a biological and energetic dialogue with the soil to produce ever more quality and favourable events. Its craft is to magnify the expression of the soil through the wine. Its biological programming gives it this beautiful vocation to participate subtly in the future quality of our intoxication.

Plant and human ancestry answer and challenge each other in a game of echoes and rebounds.

Fonroque benefits from a very beautiful vibratory quality and if you are sensitive to it, you will immediately feel the balance and serenity that reign as a sign of good energetic health. Here again, biodynamics is expressed. Its effects have the virtue of fluidifying the circulation between telluric energy and cosmic energy. It is a gift that contributes to the value of the Château and has a definite impact on its wines. If we add to this assembly of elements the human beings who work to stimulate the earth by accompanying it in its vital tendencies, who maintain and encourage the growth of the plants, celebrate the harvest of its fruits to go as far as producing this alchemical result which is the wine, we look at what constitutes the complete body of a biodynamic approach to viticulture, conceived from the encounter between all the elements recognised as active in the process, from the closest to the most distant, from the most minute to the most massive, from the most tangible and palpable to the most inexplicable.