Atlantic climate. Steep-sided knoll overlooking the Dordogne, varied mosaic of Oligocene clays and sands with calcaire à Astéries (limestone) on the hilltop. Gentle slopes around 50m altitude.
Jean-Yves Millaire and his wife own about 17ha of vines split into 20 parcels in the appellations of Canon Fronsac, Fronsac and Bordeaux.
Their 4.50ha of 45yo vines in Canon Fronsac are planted in three lieu-dits on the Tertre du Fronsac, the hill overlooking the Dordogne and offering a fantastic vantage point over acres of flat land around it, a detail that didn’t escape Charlemagne (the king of Francs from 768) who turned it into a fortress. The topsoil is mostly limestone-clay, ‘molasses de Fronsadais’ (a windblown conglomerate of sand, clay and limestone with iron deposits), the deeper bedrock ‘calcaire à astéries’ (limestone soils containing fossilised starfish from the Eocene period also found on the St-Emilion plateau).
Since the couple took over the family vines in 1998 from Jean-Yves’ grandfather (they had previously been rented out under contract) they have carried out a complete overhaul of their vineyard practices which saw them increase planting density, improve drainage and modify their pruning and trellising system. Conversion to organic viticulture in 2006 was followed with biodynamic certification six years later which has brought yields down to 35hh.
Each parcel is vinified separately in cement cuves and then aged for a year in a mix of (new to ten years old) foudres and 300ltr barrels before finishing its élevage in cuves for another year. This long ageing period gives the wines plenty of time to find their balance and helps with their stability, allowing Jean-Yves to use much lower doses of total sulphur (40mg/l) than commonly practised in Bordeaux. His very gentle touch captures the essence of the fruit and retains all the freshness and energy derived from the soils.