Wednesday Wines – Episode 161 – Château Figeac, Saint-Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé A


Blandine de Brier Manoncourt

Figeac is a remarkable wine estate, and the 2022 vintage (which you8 can read about in my 2022 Bordeaux En Primeur Report) marks the 130th year in which the Manoncourt family has owned this noble Château.  Figeac is close to the Saint-Emilion / Pomerol border and has a curious mix of terroirs.  Unusual in Saint-Emilion, this property has gravel hills and vineyards full of flint and quartz as well as clay and sandy ironstone.  There is only 6ha of gravel soil in the 5400ha in greater Saint-Emilion, which explains why the Cabernet Sauvignon grape features so prominently in Figeac’s wines.  As a rule of thumb, Figeac sports a 1/3s blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc.  This means that no matter what happens during the growing season, these wines always have an enviable degree of inbuilt complexity. Figeac is a reasonably large estate with 54ha in total, of which 41ha is under vine (the average in Saint-Emilion is 15ha).  There is a 1ha lake on the property and a spine of woodland, the Château and the winery carve a furrow down the centre of the property.  This splits the estate into thirds, and these sections form three distinctly different soil types.  These sectors are further divided into smaller parcels, and thanks to the new winery, which was christened in the 2021 vintage, much smaller tanks mean that they keep all of these parcels separate, affording them infinite blending opportunities when it comes to assembling the wines.  2022 also marks the year Château Figeac was promoted to Saint-Emilion Grand Cru Classé A status.  This is thoroughly well deserved and, in my opinion, long overdue. I tasted through seven vintages of Figeac with co-owner Blandine de Brier Manoncourt and MD Frédéric Faye.

2018 Petit-Figeac

45 Cabernet Sauvignon, 39 Merlot, 16 Cabernet Franc

30% new oak

Harvest dates – 17th September – 12th October

Figeac launched its second wine initiative in 1945 under the name La Grange Neuve de Figeac.  It was created to elevate the quality of the Grand Vin, and in 2012 its name was changed to Petit-Figeac.  Petit-Figeac is designed to be a lighter and more forward-drinking wine, and this stellar 2018 is a perfect case in point. Pure and focused on the nose with lovely ripe red cherry notes and a fair amount of classy oak shining through, this wine has a floral perfume and a beautiful demeanour.  A large amount of Cabernet brings lovely graphite tones and discreet earthiness under the robe of fruit. It still looks youthful and crunchy, with teasing bitterness adding glamour, and the fruit is pliable, and the finish is keen and bright, reflecting the decent levels of sunshine in this vintage.  With charming balance and admirable tension and it is starting to drink perfectly. This star wine is worth hunting down because it will open further over the next ten years.  In 2018 The Grand Vin used more Cabernet Franc and a smaller percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon.  17.5/20 (Drink now – 2035)

Frédéric Faye

2016 Château Figeac

38 Cabernet Sauvignon, 36 Merlot, 26 Cabernet Franc

100% new oak

Harvest dates – 23rd September – 10th October

Moving from Petit-Figeac to Figeac makes the second wine feel relatively light and refreshing and, conversely, makes the Grand Vin feel amazingly profound.  This is much richer, more focused and more powerful, and in 2016 this is a stunning wine with gorgeous traction, lovely spice and a beautiful texture.  Elegant and civilised, this is a fabulous Figeac, and it perfectly captures the estate’s essence.  The acidity is scintillatingly pure, bringing a stunning freshness to the whole experience.   19+/20 (Drink 2030 – 2050)

2015 Château Figeac

43 Cabernet Sauvignon, 29 Merlot, 28 Cabernet Franc

100% new oak

Harvest dates – 21st September – 15th October

The fight between the 2016 and the 2015 vintage has now concluded.  While these are both superb wines, there is no doubt that the 2016 has the edge in polish and completeness, and the 2015 wins on sheer power and aggression.  So please pick the vintage that most corresponds to your tastes.  This is a much dryer and far more tannic wine than the 2016, with grainy, dense tannins and a huge life ahead.  It needs a decade or more to assimilate the astringency found on the back of the palate, and it will age deliberately and slowly.  Ultimately, it looks strong and purposeful, despite lacking some of the freshness and purity of the 2016 vintage.  18.5++/20 (Drink 2035 – 2050)

2010 Château Figeac

33.3 Cabernet Sauvignon, 33.3 Merlot, 33.3 Cabernet Franc

100% new oak

Harvest dates – 27th September – 18th October

This is an astonishingly brilliant wine with all of the breeding and sophistication of the 2016 and a fair amount of carefully-judged power (some of the 2015’s looming presence) lurking beneath the surface, too.  The nose is outstanding, and the palate, while still relatively closed and centred, is fresh, lifted and incredibly refined.  This statuesque wine has stayed upright and proud without budging an inch over the last decade.  Please be patient with this wine because it will require another decade to turn the corner and start to sing, and then it won’t stop for another two decades!  19.5++ (Drink 2035 – 2055)

2009 Château Figeac

35 Cabernet Sauvignon, 35 Cabernet Franc, 30 Merlot

100% new oak

Harvest dates – 22nd September – 19th October

The 2009 vintage is more open and expressive than the 2010, and it is neither as long nor as complex.  The fruit seems a little more oak-influenced and a touch jammier, which might sound hyper-critical, but while this is an impressive wine, after tasting the 2010 and the 2016, it is not up to the truly elite standards of this estate.  I think it will live for a long time but perhaps not gather much more complexity.  According to Blandine, the 2009 vintage started to drink earlier than expected, and I feel it might have shown its hand already, but I would love to be proved wrong.  The tannins are fit enough to propel it forward, so I have awarded a ‘+’ for good measure.  18+ (Drink now – 2040)

1983 Château Figeac

One-third of each of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc

100% new oak

Harvest dates – 3rd October – 14th October

At forty years old, this is a stunning example of a beautiful wine that is in thrilling condition, and it shows no signs whatsoever of slowing down.  Super-clean, amazingly long and very refreshing, the acidity has underpinned this wine perfectly, resulting in a triumphant vintage for this Figeac.  It shows true Figeac character and is so connected in flavour and freshness to the younger wines I have tasted today.  This 1983 has a superbly-civilised palate, and I feel that the 2010 and the 2016 will take a leaf out of this wine’s book as they mature.  19/20 (Drink now – 2030)

1966 Château Figeac

One-third of each of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc

100% new oak

Harvest dates – 27th September – 10th October

Light, refreshing, smooth, clean and still superbly buoyant, this is a gloriously beautiful wine, still pulsing with amazingly refreshing redcurrant and cherry fruit.  The finish is bright and crunchy, and it shows pinpoint perfect balance.  Clean, resonant, awesomely attractive and knocking on the door of 57 years of age, this is a mesmerising wine that encapsulates the magic of this estate in just one sip.  19/20 (Drink now)