Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Touring Château Figeac, Premier Grand Cru Classé B, in Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller at Château Figeac

Château Figeac is in the northwest of the Saint-Émilion appellation, neighboring Château Cheval Blanc. With 40 hectares of vineyards, it is the largest estate in Saint-Émilion. Its grand vin release price for the 2010 vintage was Euro 168 ex-negociant. I recently had the pleasure to spend a few hours at Château Figeac and tour the estate.

Château Figeac

Because of its fine gravel based soil (which is uncommon in the Right Bank), Merlot accounts only for 30 % of the plantings (which is very low by Saint Emilion standards).  The Château Figeac grand vin is dominated (70%) by Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc in equal parts. Château Figeac is known as the most Médoc of the Ste Emilion chateaux.

Pictures: In the Vineyard (2012 Vintage)

Château Figeac is an old estate. It takes its name from a Roman called Figeacus who built a villa here. Today, one can still see a water-supply system dating from the Gallo-Roman period, foundations of buildings from the Middle Ages and defensive walls along with the remains of a Renaissance chateau incorporated into its structure.

Picture: Pomerol from a Distance

Until the late 18th century, Chateau Figeac had been in the hands of one family for almost 500 years. With almost 200 hectares, Chateau Figeac was one of the largest wine estates at the time, but parts were sold and the estate was subdivided several times until 1892, when the Manoncourt family purchased Chateau Figeac. (A sizable chunk which was purchased by the Ducasse family in 1832 formed the nucleus of what would eventually become Cheval Blanc.)

Pictures: In the Cellar

For the past 60 years, Chateau Figeac was been associated with Thierry Manoncourt, who took over the management of the property in 1946, and his wife Marie-France; Thierry Manacourt passed away in 2010. It was under his leadership that Chateau Figeac rose to the front ranks of Saint-Émilion estates. His son-in-law Comte Eric d'Aramon took over the daily running of the estate in 1988.  In 1992, Thierry Manacourt  divided the business between his 4 daughters, bestowing the larger share on his eldest daughter, Laure.

Pictures: In the Cellar

Chateau Figeac tends to harvest early with a view of retaining freshness. After Haut Brion and Latour, Chateau Figeac was the third estate in Bordeaux to introduce stainless steel tanks; there are now 20 temperature controlled vats, 10 in oak and 10 stainless steel. Since the mid 1970s, Figeac has been aged in 100% new oak. Even Petrus has not used 100% new oak since 1990. The time spent in new oak varies according to the vintage character. The 1997 vintage was aged 12 months, while the 2009 vintage saw new oak for 18 months.

The following wines are produced: Château Figeac (Saint-Emilion - Premier Grand Cru Classé B), La Grange-Neuve de Figeac (second wine) and Chateau Petit-Figeac (bought in 2002 as most of the vineyard was in the middle of their Château Figeac vineyard. The wine is now made at Château Figeac). In total, the Figeac estate amounts to 54 hectares of which 40 are planted with vines. Annual production is 10 000 cases.

The family also owns two other wineries: the nearby Château La Fleur-Pourret (4,5 hectares, Chateau La Fleur Pourret was part of Chateau Figeac many years ago, also bought in 2002), and Château de Millery (just over 1 hectare), in the southern sector of St.-Emilion known as St.-Christophe des Bardes.

Pictures: Annette Schiller, Ombiasy Wine Tours

See also:
Bordeaux Trip September 2012, France
Tour de France de Vin: 6 Days, 7 Regions, 3500 km - In 6 Days through 7 Wine Regions of France
Ombiasy Wine Tours: Bordeaux Trip Coming up in September 2013

Owner: Madame Tierry Manancourt et ses enfants

DG: For many years, Madame Manancourt's son-in-law, Comte Eric d'Aramon, was the DG of  Château Figeac, but he was recently replaced by Jean-Valmy Nicolas. In the press release, it was stated: “Jean-Valmy Nicolas aura notamment pour mission aux côtés de Madame Manoncourt et de sa famille de :
• mettre en place une nouvelle Direction Générale,
• impulser une nouvelle stratégie commerciale en resserrant les liens avec la place de Bordeaux,
• renforcer les moyens mis en œuvre au service du rayonnement et de la pérennité familiale de Figeac.”
As part of this effort, in March 2013, Michel Rolland signed a consulting contract with Figeac, with the aim of bringing it up to Premier Grand Cru Classé A.

Winemaking: Frederic Faye, Jean Albino

Prices According to wine-searcher (in US $)

2011 106
2010 268
2009 284
2008   99
2007 103
2006 119
2005 164

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Château Figeac, Saint-Émilion - A Profile, France

A Glass of Bordeaux – What Else? – With Wine Journalist Panos Kakaviatos

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