Château Franc Mayne
The road that runs out of the back of St Emilion towards Libourne is, for me, a road well-travelled. After all, if you take a right just before Château Figeac you soon find yourself, just two minutes later, hurtling along among the vineyards of Pomerol. On a busy day, with a jumbled-up schedule of appointments in both appellations (no matter how hard I try, I have never yet managed to have a pure ‘Pomerol day’ or an solely ‘St Emilion day’), I might find myself flying along this little road half a dozen times.
In doing so I have noticed it is perhaps too easy to overlook those domaines that lie along this road as mere markers on this brief journey, rather than destinations in themselves, To do so, however, would be a mistake. This is, after all, the cradle of viticulture and winemaking in St Emilion; vines have been planted here for centuries, perhaps even millennia. One such estate that springs to mind is Château Franc Mayne. The château, which dates to the 16th century, was initially a staging post conveniently situated on this road, which formed part of the pilgrimage route down to Saint-Jacques de Compostelle. This, and the estate’s long association with at least two religious orders (more detail of which on the next page) perhaps explains the prominent position of the stone cross among the vines (pictured below). Today, this old hostel has been converted into a luxurious hotel, with all the conveniences modern travellers could wish for.
There are, of course, still vineyards here, many centuries after the first vine was pushed into the damp clay soil here. And, rather like the aforementioned hotel, the wines made at Château Franc Mayne today also present a very modern, 21st-century facade to the world. This profile looks at the domaine today in detail, but first I look back to the origins of viticulture in this corner of St Emilion, which means a glance back to Roman times.