Monday, November 16, 2015

Tour and Tasting at Château Figeac, Premier Grand Cru Classé B, in Saint-Émilion – Bordeaux Tour by ombiasy WineTours (2015)

Picture: Annette Schiller and Château Figeac's Director Frédéric Faye

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.

Pictures: At Château Figeac with Gwennaelle Brieu Château Figeac's Director Frédéric Faye

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.

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 Saint Emilion chateaux.

Pictures: Arriving at Château Figeac

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.)

Pictures: Cellar Tour at Château Figeac

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.

Pictures: In the Vineyard at Château Figeac

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.

Pictures: Tasting at Château Figeac

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.

Pictures: Christian Schiller with Winemaker Jean Albignon and Technical Director Frédéric Faye at Château Figeac

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.

Pictures: Château Figeac's Technical Manager Frédéric Faye Explaining

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.

Pictures: Château Figeac's Technical Manager Frédéric Faye and Annette Schiller

Wine-searcher Average Prices in US$

2014 79
2013 77
2010 271
2005 163
2000 180

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