A Resolution for 2020: Freewheel in Fronsac
Cycling in Fronsac should be on your list for 2020. Are you into great wine and fabulous scenery? Then hunt out your helmet and head this way. The countryside is breath-taking but undoubtedly undulating (aka downright hilly at times) which is what makes Fronsac stand out - quite literally – from flatter areas of the right bank such as neighbouring Pomerol or the plains of St Emilion. If you are looking for magnificent views over vineyards and rivers, quiet country lanes to meander from one wine property to the next away from the bustle of Bordeaux or the tourist-filled St Emilion, then hop on your bike and discover Fronsac. And if you want to make it a relaxing visit then don’t sweat, go electric!
I have always loved cycling and I have explored many Old and New World wine regions using pedal power – covering more ground than on foot and experiencing so much more than is possible by car. In fact, bicycle is the best way to see a wine region – all your senses can drink in the personality of the vines through the seasons as you meander between the vineyards, see farmers at work and stop at humble or stately wine properties nestled in valleys or at turns of country lanes to meet winemakers and taste their wares. And I have even taken a snooze under the vines after a taste too many when cycling in Italy, but enough about that!
With the Dordogne and Isle rivers forming 2 of its borders, the Fronsac wine appellation has over 1000 hectares. These rivers enabled the wines from Fronsac to be the first from the right bank of Bordeaux to make their way to Paris to be drunk at the Royal Court of Versailles. From sea level, Fronsac can rise up to 80 metres in places – such as the limestone plateau in Saillans where Château George 7 sits. The Fronsac landscape is magnificent – with gentle and often less gentle slopes striped by rows of valiant vines together with dips into valleys which give pedalling legs some respite.
Majestic views to the river, a village church spire, clusters of woodland or a line of cypresses break up the rolling hills that run from one property into another – no boundaries or hedges hold back those who are exploring on foot or 2 wheels as long as they are respectful of the vines and their fruit. Are you getting the picture of how fabulous it is?
If you haven’t yet delved into Fronsac wines (why not?) then they will be a delightful discovery too – I am thrilled that the quality and potential of Fronsac is becoming recognised with innovative winemakers, investment in visitor experiences and a strong commitment to sustainability that is taking Fronsac up several gears and putting it on the map.
I have a favourite circular route that I take from home which covers about 15-20km keeping to narrow country lanes with rarely a car in sight - just the odd tractor heading to or from the vines. It is doable with medium fitness (with a couple of short challenging hills) and includes the Fronsac 'Maison des Vins' and some wine properties that are open most days to visitors. If you are feeling active and want to use your own pedal power then that route is certainly possible in about 1-1.5 hrs not counting stops for sustenance (don’t forget to pop into Château George 7 to fill up your water bottle or take a look around). If you are used to cycling for fun and want to burn off some calories, it will be paradise. But if hills are your hell, then hire an electric bike which will give you some oomph on the ups and makes the region accessible to all levels of fitness and whichever route you take. The extremely amenable owner of the electric bike hire business, Monsieur David, will even bring you bikes to your accommodation in the area. Or you can pick them up in Libourne if you arrive by train or boat from Bordeaux. A couple of curious wine journalists have tried this route too and were full of praise!
France still has lessons to learn from its New World counterparts on making its properties and wine regions more welcoming to visitors including exploring cyclists. But Fronsac is making real headway, with more and more domaines opening their doors, with easy accessibility by car or train and with natural vistas around every corner that are largely undiscovered and yet stunning in every season.
So put Fronsac on your list for 2020. You can be sure that pedallers will always get a warm welcome at Château George 7 and after a chat and a taste, should you wish to purchase some wine, I am happy to deliver it to your accommodation in the area at the end of the day while you put your feet up.
- Fronsac is the name of the wine appellation on the right bank of Bordeaux, which stretches across 1050 hectares and 7 communes and gives its name to red wines made within its area (including Château George 7). It very roughly starts just outside Libourne to the North West of the town and is bordered by Pomerol and the Isle River to the east and the Dordogne to the south.
- Canon Fronsac is also a wine appellation within this area (making up about 250 hectares of the 1050). Some producers that have vines in both, label their wines accordingly while some choose to use the Fronsac term only.
- Fronsac is also the name of a village and one of the 7 communes within the appellation where the 'Maison des Vins' of Fronsac can be found.
- In French, the region is referred to as the ‘Fronsadais’– it refers broadly to the region that encompasses the Fronsac Appellation but goes slightly beyond it. So, the 'Office de Tourisme du Fronsadais', situated in the village of St. Michel-de-Fronsac has information about Fronsac winemakers but also some wine producers who are making Bordeaux wines just outside the Fronsac appellations boundaries.