A merlot of good provenance, from a good vintage, at just about affordable price but safely above the danger zone. The owner is Alain Vauthier of Ch Ausone fame, the region is St-Émilion, the vintage is the first „vintage of the century” since 2010, the price is around €30. With the 2016 Ch Pey la Tour failing to cut the mustard and thus losing the title of the cheapest visual aid for „Bordeaux for Dummies” courses, Fonbel is a good candidate to fill the vacancy.
It doesn’t fall into the dreaded parkerized nouveau Bordeaux category, but then nor does it conform to the idealized mean and lean „claret” style. At equal distance from unripe and overripe fruit, this is an elegant, pure and friendly red. The nose is inviting and classy, displaying cherries, blueberries, graphite, licorice, white chocolate and hints of bell pepper (I was surprised to find that only 30% was aged in barrels). Midweight palate, polished textures, lively and round acidity. Excellent balance. Lingering finish with cherries and chalky tannins. In a blind test I would stand no chance of picking this one out even in a lineup of just three merlot dominant wines.
This is the kind of red Bordeaux is the undisputed master of producing. It’s a matter of taste how much kick you get out of experiencing effortless craftsmanship; as for me I’m left practically unmoved. However this might be a savvy choice for lovers of Bordeaux on budget or for beginners wanting to study this style.
Execution 8 points, choreography 6, so let’s make that 7 points as total score. 30 euros is okayish value for a right-bank Bordeaux.