Château La Prade
The Francs Côtes de Bordeaux appellation lies to the north-east of the St Emilion vineyards, just 16 kilometres – a very short journey by car – from the town of St Emilion itself. Despite this it feels isolated, a distant outpost situated a long way from the most famous vineyards of the Bordeaux region, somewhat unloved and unappreciated. But that is, of course, the very nature of Bordeaux, and perhaps all wine regions. Two domaines or appellations can be within sight of one another, but one can have all the reputation and prestige, while the other remains unknown. And that’s true of next-door neighbours; the 16 kilometres between Francs and St Emilion might as well be a light year.
Overlooked and unappreciated appellations are great places to find wines of quality at a fair price through, and Francs Côtes de Bordeaux – with its quite brilliant clay and limestone terroirs – is no exception to this rule. There are a number of names here worth knowing, a surprising number of which can be traced back to one family, and for the most part one man, Nicolas Thienpont, although these days his son, Cyrille Thienpont (pictured below), also deserves his place in the spotlight. One château to look out for is Château La Prade.
Looking through old publications relating to the region’s wines reveals nothing of this estate’s history. Only a handful of estates in Francs ever receive a mention in old Bordeaux texts, alongside a large number of vignerons often working under their own names, many with just a few rows of vines. As such the ancient history of the property remains obscured from view, and it is only in the late-20th century it begins to clear, with the arrival of the Valette family.