Château Toumalin is a classic French wine from Canon Fronsac and is the perfect accompaniment to Bordeaux beef dishes. Fronsac and Canon-Fronsac sit side by side with Saint Emilion and Pomerol. It is a small estate of only 8 hectares and is owned by Paul Bernard d' Arfeuille. Wines from this area are less well known than their famous neighbours but their wines are excellent and undervalued so you can buy wines that are made with great care but don’t cost a fortune. Nick discovered Château Toumalin and we both think it suits discerning palettes and lovers of traditional Bordeaux wine. It’s exclusive to Bordeaux-Undiscovered and you won’t find it anywhere else in the UK!
Canon-Fronsac wines keep well and are a great choice when you are buying wine to lay down. The fine reputation this area enjoys in France is gradually becoming known around the world so from this perspective wines laid down in cellars now may well be an investment for the future.
Château Toumalin is gorgeous, shining, deep ruby crimson colour, has aromas of black fruit enhanced by a note of blueberry and with hints of roasted wood. It is fine, strong and ageable and gives an ample, full, sensation on the palate with refined tannins. The well balanced finish is pleasantly long-lasting and silky.
Château Toumalin is a little gem and will compliment stronger flavoured meats such as Feathered Game, Wild Boar and Venison whilst being equally complimentary to Casseroles and Stews. A Rump Steak would be perfect with it and it will enhance the meatier Pasta Dishes. Vegetarian Dishes based on Aubergines, Peppers and Cheese also pair well with this wine. Cheeses like Brie and Camembert are known for bringing out the complex fruity flavour of Canon-Fronsac wines. It goes well with French cheeses like Cantal, Comté. Maroilles, Reblochon, Saint-Nectaire and Langres.
The Fronsac and Canon-Fronsac wine region is a lovely area of hills along the Dordogne and
l'Isle rivers, west of Saint Émilion. Until the 19th centuries, Fronsac wine was one of the most popular in the region. Merlot is the most important grape giving to the wine body and richness although the wine keeps a strong personality. Château Toumalin is made from 75% Merlot and 25% Cabernet Franc.
Although the Canon-Fronsac appellation area is relatively small (283 hectares - 700 acres), it boasts an excellent terroir for vines. The soil is clayey-limestone, with some sand on the lower-lying land nearest to the Dordogne, on a limestone base, the Molasses de Frondasais. Like Saint Emilion, the area is honeycombed with quarries and man-made caves, many of which are now used for the cultivation of mushrooms.
The landscape is dotted with small hillocks and deep valleys. Along with its vegetation of holm oaks, the area has a Mediterranean feel to it, which is accentuated by hot, dry and windy weather. The climate is one of mild winters, early springs, typically hot summers and long, warm, pleasant autumns.
If you are wondering where the name "Canon" comes from it may be due to the fact that ships anchored on the Dordogne upstream of St. Michel de Fronsac in the 1600s used the western flank of the Fronsac hill as a landmark to fire salvos into the marshes, the only area at the time which was not given over to cultivation. The aim of these trials was to test the ballistics and power of the ships' canons. It was even possible to measure their range, by observing where the canon balls fell into the marsh.
There are some who claim that Fronsac was the first vineyard in Bordeaux. The vineyards descend down from the limestone bluff, the Tertre de Fronsac, and more than 12 centuries ago, the Emperor Charlemange commanded a fortress to be built in 769 to control the neighbouring area and to defend the Libournais against marauding pirates. The site was known as Fransiacus - the Chateau of the Francs.
Charlemagne was so fond of the red wine from his fine Corton vineyards in Burgundy that, in his enthusiasm, he would sometimes spill it, colouring his noble beard. His wife felt the stains were hardly appropriate for her husband, the Holy Roman Emperor. To silence her complaints, he ordered some of the red-wine vines of Corton uprooted and replaced with white.
He ordered that crushing of wine grapes no longer be done with the feet, but that a mechanical screw press be used. Likewise, wine was no longer to be stored in skins, but in wooden kegs instead. Charlemagne also introduced the securing of the wine barrels with metal hoops for transport.
He liked cheese as well as wine, pronouncing Brie to be "one of the most marvellous of foods," and ordered two crates a year. Viticulture became so successful during Charlemagne's reign that there was an excess of wine. Thus, "banvin" had to be imposed, which meant none of the tenants could sell their wine until the lord had sold his own. The ultimate indication of his affection for the vine occurred when he renamed the months of the year in his own language. October became "windume-monath" that is, the month of the wine harvest.
My favourite meal with Château Toumalin is Bordeaux Entrecote Steak and it is traditionally grilled in the open air over vine twigs. Luckily we have a vine clambering up the side of the barn so I can toss some of its stems on the BBQ. Don’t worry if you haven’t got access to vine twigs – the wine will more than make up for it!
Entrecôte grillé aux Sarments de Vignes
(Prime Sirloin Steak grilled on vine twigs)
2 entrecôte steaks
4 to 5 shallots
salt and pepper
Chop the shallots into fine slices and fry them in a knob of butter until tender. Get a good fire going with the vine branches. Once the flames have gone down, place the grill over the embers and wait a moment and then put the steaks on the grill. Cook for 4 minutes on one side and then turn the meat over and place the shallots on the top. Cook the other side for 4 minutes. 4. Add salt only once the steaks are cooked, and pepper when served on the plates. The ideal garnish is Bordeaux’s cèpe mushrooms.