Monday, November 16, 2015
Tour and Tasting at Château Figeac, Premier Grand Cru Classé B, in Saint-Émilion – Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015)
Château de Figeac is one of the 15 Premier Grand Cru Classé B Châteaux in Saint-Emilion. Its prominent neighbor is Château Cheval Blanc. The vineyards of Château de Figeac border the Pomerol appellation vineyards and thus the vines grow on a very different terroir than the rest of the Saint-Emilion vines. The Figeac wines show a more “Left Bank” character than the rest of the Saint-Emilion wines.
In 1892, the Manoncourt family took over the Château, restored it to its former glory, and transformed the estate into one of the most elegant châteaux in Saint-Emilion.
We visited Château Figeac as part of the Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015), organized and led by Annette Schiller. The tour took place from September 15 to 24, 2015. The group comprised 8 wine lovers from the United States, including Annette and Christian Schiller.
I already provided an overview about the tour: Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015), France
This posting focuses on our visit of Château Figeac.
Gwennaelle Brieu was our host. We also had a chance to talk with Figeac's Director Frédéric Faye and met winemaker Jean Albignon.
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 Saint Emilion chateaux.
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.
Until the late 18th century, Château Figeac had been in the hands of one family for almost 500 years. With almost 200 hectares, Château 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 Château Figeac. (A sizable chunk which was purchased by the Ducasse family in 1832 formed the nucleus of what would eventually become Cheval Blanc.)
For most of the past 70 years, Château 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 Château 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.
Château Figeac tends to harvest early with a view of retaining freshness. After Haut Brion and Latour, Château 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. 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, Château La Fleur Pourret was part of Château 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.
New Management Team
For many years, Madame Manancourt's son-in-law, Comte Eric d'Aramon, was the DG of Château Figeac, but he was removed in 2013, when the Manoncourt family appointed Jean-Valmy Nicolas as Joint Managing Director and Frédéric Faye as Manager of Château Figeac. Jean-Valmy Nicolas (a graduate of France’s HEC business school) is the joint owner of Chateau La Conseillante in Pomerol and a professional at an investment company, based in Paris.
Frédéric Faye (an engineering graduate of Bordeaux’s ENITA), has been at Château Figeac since 2002, when he began as Vineyard Manager before being promoted to the post of Technical Manager. He now has overall management of the vineyard and the wine-making, as well as the sales of the wines.
As part of these changes, in March 2013, Michel Rolland signed a consulting contract with Château Figeac, with the aim of bringing it up to Premier Grand Cru Classé A.
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