When most people think of Bordeaux, their mind takes them straight to the Grand Cru Classé chateaux, with their manicured lawns and astronomical prices. The fact is that, despite the marketing image that the region has so regularly portrayed, there are many thousands of petit chateaux that seldom make any headlines or attract the big critics. They don’t take part in En Primeur, nor do they have the budget for lavish cellars or famous consultants. This ‘other’ Bordeaux is home to real vignerons that are making wonderful wine from lesser-known appellations – it is also where there are countless bargains to be found if you know where to look.

The Francs Côtes de Bordeaux appellation is one such satellite region. The newest (and smallest) of Bordeaux’s AOPs, it is seen as a vineyard area of real potential, which explains why so many established names (the de Boüards of Angelus and Thienponts of Vieux Château Certain, among others) have already purchased properties there. The 10 hectares at Franc-Cardinal are long established, though it was only after Canadian Phillip Holzberg purchased it in 2001 that the crop began to be chateau-bottled rather than being sold in bulk. Since then, farming at the estate has been converted to organic (full certification is on the way) and the Merlot-dominated estate wine has become one of the appellation’s best. After fermentation in concrete tank, Franc-Cardinal is aged in used oak barrels and the Merlot (70%) is blended with Cabernet Franc (25%) and Malbec (5%) before bottling.

Phillip tragically passed away in 2010, but his wife Sophie and the team at the Château continue to make the wine in the style Phillip insisted upon – elegant, fresh and always a reflection of their beautiful terroir.

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