Visit at Chateau Figeac in Saint Emilion
I visited Chateau Figeac on THU, June 23rd. My appointment was for 10:00 and when I arrived, I was content to find a place bathed by a warm sun on a peaceful morning. It is said that the best time to taste wine is somewhere early in the morning: 10-12:00 when the taste buds are at their best, or at least this is what our host mentioned.
Chateau Figeac is rather unique for its Saint Emilion appellation. A Grand Cru, it is the biggest estate with 40 ha under vines in an appellation where the average vineyards are around 8 ha. Also, as another unique characteristic, it is among the very few, if not the only estate in Saint Emilion, that grows Cabernet Sauvignon. The usual grape varieties found in Saint Emilion are Merlot and Cabernet Franc. The reason why Figeac grows Cabernet Sauvignon is its terroir, that resembles very much the soil found on the Left Bank due to its rich gravels.
In the early 19th century, Chateau Figeac was a 175 ha property but in time, parcels were sold by different owners. Plots sold are today parts of Beauregard and La Conseillante, while a sizable part established the core of what is Chateau Cheval Blanc today. Thierry Manoncourt took control in 1947 and he was the driving force that pushed Figeac to new heights. Unfortunately Mr Manoncourt passed away about 11 months ago at the age of 93. Our host mentioned that on the day he passed away he still went on swimming and looking over the property. He managed to make wines from over 40 vintages. Now the property is managed by his daughter Laure and son-in-law Count Eric d’Aramon.
Chateau Figeac grows 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Cabernet Franc and the remaining 30% Merlot. New oak is used to age for up to 20 months the Grand Vin, whereas second year barrels are used for the second wine: La Grange Neuve de Figeac. They use up to ten different types of oak for the aging barrels. A common thing to all cellars I visited were the beautiful aromas of vanilla coming from the new oak and combined with the wine aromas it was like stepping into a perfume shop.
The plantation density is about 6000 vines per ha and yields of 35 hl/ha. The vines are on average 35 years old. The gravelly soil has an average a depth of 6-8 meters for all three mounds: Les Moulins(the most southern with 7 m depth), La Terrasse(next to the north with 6 m depth) and L’Enfer(the northern with 8 m depth).
The vegetative cycle of the vines is more advanced than usual and the proof is the green harvesting already done – when they are cutting down green bunches of grapes to ensure better concentration and fully ripeness for the remaining. Usually the green harvest takes place towards the end of July. As it looks right now there will be an early harvest for September(vs the usual October) this year in Bordeaux.
The premises and the cellars of Figeac were the most rustic compared to all the other properties visited, however everything is done with a perfectionist attention to details. In the cellar they use big oak tanks, renewed every 20 years, for the alcoholic and malolactic fermentation, while old presses, used before, are exhibited as a legacy of the past, in the same room with the new equipment.
Down in the private cellar, Mr Manoncourt left a collection of over 500,000 bottles of different wines and vintages as inheritance to his heirs.
While we were visiting, employees were preparing to bottle the 2009 wines for the next day.
A large chamber that was part of the aging cellar, now transformed, became the tasting room and it is also used for the family’s private parties. The big fireplace built on one of the walls creates a cozy atmosphere.
I tasted a 2001 Chateau Figeac. An almost opaque dark red color. A well developed but still youthful and rich nose, wtith great earthy and mineral aromas, charcoal, tobacco, ample red fruit with red currant and dark cherry. A very seductive nose. Medium plus bodied, with velvety tannins, ample mouth feel, with rich aromas of earth, sweet red fruit, plum, tobacco and a long earthy-mineral finish. Drinking very well right now. (93-94/100)
The 2001 Chateau Figeac was available for sale at the chateau for 135 Eur and they also released their 2010 price for 140 € +5% versus 2009, + 309% versus 2008 and +138% versus 2005.
See below a video of the property: