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Ric re-visits Château Figeac

July 8, 2019

Since 1892, Château Figeac has been owned by the Manoncourt family for four generations, with the fifth generation now ready to step up to the task. With 40.5 hectares under vines at the north-western tip of Saint-Emilion abutting on Ch Cheval Blanc, Ch Figeac has the second largest holdings in this commune after Ch Fombrauge. Nobody really knows why the pioneers at Ch Figeac opted to plant a substantial portion of vines with cabernet sauvignon but one of the reasons put forward is that the deep gravelly soils that originated from volcanic rocks offer excellent filtration for excess moisture, which suits this grape varietal very well. The current proportions are 35% cabernet sauvignon, 35% cabernet franc and 30% merlot. Whatever it is, this unusual make-up for a Right Bank property has contributed to a cult-like following for Ch Figeac which, surely, cannot be at all bad. The average age of the vines is about 40 years. About 100,000 bottles of the grand vin are produced annually while the declassified grapes make up another 40,000 bottles of the second label. The estate has also absorbed neighbouring La Grange Neve since 2012. The grapes are 100% de-stemmed during vinification. Cold maceration takes place over six days while alcoholic fermentation is kick-started with selected yeast. No pumping over is done. The wine is aged in 100% new French oak with a substantial amount of pressed wine added. Racking is carried out every five months with nitrogen gas. Fining with egg whites takes place before bottling.

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When we visited on the hot morning of 26 June 2019, a huge amount of construction work was being carried out next to the old chateau building. Due for completion in 2021, this modern structure will house the new chai, cellars, laboratories, offices and tasting facilities. For the time being, the barrels are all housed in a temporary above-ground air-conditioned shelter where we tasted both the 2011 grand vin and the second label.

2011 Petit-Figeac. Good colour. Lovely fragrance of red and dark fruits along with some gentle earthiness. Medium-bodied and fleshy, showing good presence and suppleness with very fine acidity, exuding relaxed charm through its seamless detailed tannins, just a tad dusty in texture. Good sophistication throughout, finishing with excellent lift and mouthfeel. Quite excellent in its own right.

2011 Ch Figeac. Appreciably darker and deeper on the nose, the grand vin exudes rich layers of dark fruits and dark cherries amid overtones of hot gravel. Nicely rounded, displaying very good definition of early cedary characters against dense dark plums and cassis of excellent concentration with seamless transparent textures. Distinctly feminine in its gentle length and finish, developing a lovely growing intensity over time. Highly consistent with a similar bottle also tasted at the chateau in September 2016. Excellent.

While this hasn’t been quite the ideal time to visit Ch Figeac, I can’t wait to return when the new building is up and running properly. Many thanks, Gwen, for your time and for your expert insight into one of my favourite estates.

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