A short drive across the Barbanne stream in the appellation of Lalande-de-Pomerol is the village of Néac, home to Château Canon Chaigneau. Enclosed by wrought iron of indigo blue with soft purple hues of wisteria tumbling over the entrance, the traditional stone buildings of this estate are punctuated by blue doors, some faded and peeling, others freshened with a lick of paint. Here, wines that delight upon discovery and captivate with ample fruit and supple tannins are to be found.
Owing to a serendipitous continuation of terroir, the soils of neighbouring Pomerol continue through to Néac, where, atop a plateau, vines send their roots deep into soils of sandy gravel and clay over an iron and limestone base. The result is an opportunity to experience wine of notable quality but pleasingly, without the price tag of its neighbour. Adding weight to that assertion, renowned critic Neal Martin sites a feast of flavours in the 2008 Canon Chaigneau when he says it is “one of my favourite, more mature vintages from this Lalande-de-Pomerol estate. The enticing bouquet presents a mélange of red and black fruit, iodine, meat juices and rosemary; it is very Pomerol-like, with black truffle emerging with time …”
After more than 50 years with the Marin family, a new era for the estate is being ushered in as Romik Arconian and Marine Fontana and their young family take up ownership. Understanding the riches of Néac is very much the focus of the new owners as they seek to weave together strands of tradition with modernity in their expression of site – an approach that has already found favour with critics.
Esteemed writer, Jane Anson describes the 2019 en Béton, aged in concrete tanks, as “absolutely charming, fresh and bright”. After tasting the same wine, Antonio Galloni writes, “There is plenty to look forward to, that is for sure”, describing it as “… plump, dense and juicy... Black cherry, leather and spice come together in a wine that is pliant, supple and nuanced…” Neal Martin echoes the enthusiasm for the new owners’ first vintage, when he describes the 2019 en Béton as “an intriguing new cuvée that shows great promise. The bouquet does not short-change on fruit, predominantly blackberry and bilberry, and also features light ash-like scents and hints of grated black truffle in the background… One to watch out for.”
Care of the 21-hectare vineyard will be passed to Marine Fontana, who plans to continue managing the vines according to the principles of lutte raisonnée. And to ensure custody of the vines passes seamlessly from one family to another, Louis Marin, son of the original owner, can still be found in a tractor amongst the vines – often with the youngest member of the new family upon his knee surveying the new playground! Furthermore, Louis’s son, acclaimed winemaker Thierry Garnaud creates the merlot dominated wines, that are blended with small portions of cabernet and malbec or pressac as it is known locally.
As the medals, awards and positive reviews continue to amass, the wise fine wine lover will want to ensure Canon Chaigneau is in their cellar before word gets out.