1999 Chateau Fontenil, Fronsac

Every now and again, it pays to skim through catalogues and price lists supplied by our negociant friends in Bordeaux.  Generally, it’s a widely accepted theory that the opening En Primeur price represents each châteaux’s lowest price … ever. Of course, it’s a widely accepted theory because it’s true. However, after enough time passes, and several “Vintages of the Century” occur, we find tremendous value in older wines that are still for sale. That’s exactly what we have here! One of the hidden expenses of aging Bordeaux is the cost of storage. Keep 20 cases at a storage facility for 15 years, and that puts a bit more cost on each bottle in those cases. Build your own cellar and you have to factor in the cost of parts, labor, and electricity to everything inside it. Do you see what we’re getting at here? How about we take a 14 year old wine that has been stored for you at its chateau in Bordeaux and import it over here in refrigerated container, and put it on the shelf with a user-friendly price lower than $35? 
The 1999 Château Fontenil is that wine. Owned by famed consultant Michel Rolland and his wife Dany, it is consistently one of the more polished offerings to come from this often overlooked appellation vintage after vintage. 1999 was not exactly a blockbuster vintage; it also had the distinction of being immediately succeeded by a “Vintage of the Century” (and 3 more since). Here at TWH, we often gravitate to vintages like 1999 because that’s where you’re going to find the best values. We popped a bottle when it first arrived and absolutely loved it. It has all those wonderful secondary and tertiary complexities one finds in aged claret, but it is holding on to an air of youthful exuberance! With its structure completely intact, its fruit, tannins, and acid are still firing fresh. It’s just gained in complexity. Served blind by TWH intern Stefan Jakoby at a private party, he was amazed just how “right” this wine was; plenty of fruit, plenty of tannin, yet sporting the elegance of aged claret. When Robert Parker tasted the newly bottled 1999 Fontenil in 2002, he had this to say, “Fontenil’s 1999 is once again one of the stars of the appellation. It reveals a deep ruby/purple color along with a sweet perfume of raspberries, black currants, licorice, and subtle smoke. The wine is medium-bodied, with attractive ripe fruit in the attack, mid-palate, and finish, and melted tannin. It will drink well for a decade.”
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