Francs is home to about 40 winemakers, while Sainte-Foy only about 20. As I tend to find in smaller, lesser-heralded regions, the winemakers I met here seemed to have a cooperative spirit, an ethos that a rising tide of attention on the region's wines will lift all boats.
Most of the Côtes de Bordeaux wines are made in small quantities and sold within France itself. The value of these wines has been evident to me for years, and the wines feature prominently in shops and bistros throughout Bordeaux. Of the export market, China leads the way, followed by Belgium, while the United States comes in third.
The vineyards in Francs are spread among the rolling hills on the northern banks of the Dordogne River. Lots of limestone soils here fit the Merlot grape well, but Cabernet Sauvignon makes up 25% of red grapes, followed by Cabernet Franc. Semillon leads the pack of white grapes here.
Sainte-Foy is the smallest and newest of the Côtes de Bordeaux appellations, joining the union in 2016. East of the city of Bordeaux, along the Gironde River and near the mouth of the Dordogne River, the clay and limestone soils here support vibrant Merlots, along with a good amount of Cabernet Sauvignon. The vineyards are spread among the communes outside of the town of Sainte-Foy, and the average estate is about 20 acres.
During a lovely lunch at Chateau La Peyronie, located in the Francs Côtes de Bordeaux appellation, I had the chance to taste through a bunch of Sainte-Foy and Francs wines. Unfortunately, only a few of these wines seem to be available in the U.S. The price points (when available) are based on Wine-Searcher averages.
I'm hoping that I see more and more of these wines on U.S. shelves. The high quality, relatively low price points, and early-drinking appeal of many of these wines make them quite attractive.
My notes on the wines I tasted are listed below.
2018 Château Martet Blanc - France, Bordeaux, Entre-Deux-Mers, Sainte Foy Côtes de Bordeaux
Aromas of apricot, orange, with lemongrass and white pepper. Very bright on the palate, but bountiful tropical fruit (grapefruit, peach, pineapple), with mineral, floral and chalky tones. Plush texture but fresh, very good stuff. Semillon with Sauvignon Gris, Sauvignon Blanc and Muscadelle. (89 points)
2018 Château Puyanché Blanc - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Francs Côtes de Bordeaux
Creamy and inviting on the nose, apples, pears, honey. On the palate, this barrel-fermented wine stands out, but it’s also quite nuanced and vibrant. Creamy, plush and leesy, but there’s a talc, mineral and chalk essence that I really like. Eye-opening stuff for me. 75% Sauvignon Blanc and 25% Semillon, started in stainless steel and aged seven months in barrel with lees stirring. Insane value here. (91 points)
2016 Château Franc Cardinal - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Francs Côtes de Bordeaux
Nose shows strawberries, cherries, roses, sweet smelling herbs. Smooth on the palate, light tannins, medium+ acid. Raspberry and strawberry-driven with earth, cola, coffee tones. Light and fresh fun style. Merlot with 24% Cabernet Franc and 4% Malbec aged eight months in French oak. (87 points)
2016 Château Galouchey - France, Bordeaux, Entre-Deux-Mers, Sainte Foy Côtes de Bordeaux
Fresh strawberries and cherries on the nose. Light tannins, fresh acidity, juicy and fruity but easy-drinking with subtle earth and leather notes. Fun, simple, in a good way. Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon, aged 12 months in French oak. (86 points)
2016 Château Coutelor La Romarine - France, Bordeaux, Entre-Deux-Mers, Sainte Foy Côtes de Bordeaux
Dark currants on the nose with bell pepper and roasted herbs. Bold tannins with fresh acidity, dark and crunchy currant fruit. Nuanced earth, coffee, pepper. Cabernet Sauvignon with 5% Merlot. (88 points)
2016 Château Laulan - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Francs Côtes de Bordeaux
Cherry compote on the nose. Plush yet shows moderate tannins, with cranberry, strawberry, pepper and spice. Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec aged 12 months in oak. (87 points)
2015 Château Godard Bellevue - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Francs Côtes de Bordeaux
Sweet and rich and saucy on the nose. All sorts of jammy fruits, plush texture and light tannins, low acidity. Jammy, forward style. Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon aged 12 months in oak. (84 points)
2015 Château Le Prévot - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Francs Côtes de Bordeaux
Juicy and dark aromas with sweet coffee, black pepper glaze. Rich and fruity with moderate tannins, fresh acidity, and tart currant fruit. Coffee, cocoa, pepper tones. Merlot with 10% apiece of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. (87 points)
2015 L'Eden de Lapeyronie J. F. Lapeyronie - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Francs Côtes de Bordeaux
Plummy, cherries, earth on the nose. Full and velvety on the palate with suave tannins and fresh acidity. Currants and plums mixd with cocoa, pepper and cedar. Well done. 50% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Cabernet Franc aged in 30% new oak. (88 points)
2014 Château de Francs Les Cerisiers - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Francs Côtes de Bordeaux
Nose shows saucy red and black currants, cocoa, scorched earth. Plush feel, velvety tannins, this is a juicy, sweet plum-dominated wine with some interesting anise and roasted coffee tones. 90% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. (87 points)
2012 Château Moulin de Gueyraude - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Francs Côtes de Bordeaux
Smells of plum cake, prunes and sweet black licorice candies. Tannins are smooth, medium acidity, with plums and prune fruit. Notes of coffee and black tea. Merlot with 10% apiece Cab Franc and Cab Sauv. (85 points)
2016 Château Lapeyronie - France, Bordeaux, Libournais, Castillon Côtes de Bordeaux
Sweet plums on the nose with roasted figs, cocoa and earth. Quite refined and fresh with juicy cherries and figs. Lovely acidity and freshness. Really vibrant, crisp, floral, but plenty of red fruits. (90 points)
2016 Château Tour de Goupin - France, Bordeaux, Entre-Deux-Mers, Sainte Foy Côtes de Bordeaux Liquoreux
Sweet honey and tennis balls on the nose. The palate is rich and unctuous, showing medium-low acidity, and flavors of apricot, orange marmalade. Sweet but seems a bit thin the same time? All Semillon from 50-year-old vines in clay and limestone soils. (85 points)