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Bordeaux 2015: Château Figeac

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

IMG_0966I’m a great fan of Château Figeac. The finesse here can be exceptional, akin to neighbour Château Cheval Blanc. I loved the wines produced in 2009, 2010, 2012 and 2014. 2015 is amongst the best of these, if not perhaps the very best in this set of vintages. There is terrific purity here, akin to 2014, but with even more texture perhaps. As a lover of Cabernet the wine is thrilling. The typical blend over the years has been roughly equal portions of Merlot, Cab Franc and Cab Sauvignon. It’s a field blend that matches Figeac’s gravelly terroir. In 2015 that proportion rises to 43% Cabernet Sauvignon with roughly equal proportions of the other grapes. It accounts for the wonderful blackcurrant aromatics and the strength and length of the wine. It is knockout.

It’s not difficult to tell what is going on at Figeac. It’s good news in one way for the ultimate quality, but there will be a downside for the less financially well-endowed followers of this property. Firstly, motives. There is no earthly qualitative reason why Château Figeac didn’t accompany Château Angélus and Château Pavie in 2012 and march into the exulted ranks of the ‘A’ group of St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classés, to join Château Ausone and Château Cheval Blanc. The reason was quantitative. Price. Correct me if I’m wrong but Figeac simply wasn’t expensive enough, one of the criteria of St Emilion’s 2012 reclassification [the ‘value’ critera as ascribed to the ‘reputation’ of the estate]. If Figeac is ever going to crack that group, next time round not only will it have to produce consistently higher point scoring wine, but its price will have to rise further, and substantially. This is the bonkers part of Bordeaux. Many of its classifications are determined either solely or partly by price.

Enter stage right Michel Rolland in 2012. He has become consultant to the Figeac team managed by Frédéric Faye. Many feared the worst, not because Rolland doesn’t know what he’s doing – he’s an exceptional winemaker – but we all know he comes with a house style. Rolland has a penchant for the lush, the ripe and the very sexy, and yet Figeac’s beauty lies in more demure charms – finesse, composure, thoughtfulness and purity. 2013 was Rolland’s first vintage as consultant [he was only involved in blending the 2012]. 2013 was a tricky wet vintage to judge anyone’s efforts by. 2014 was impressive, not just because the wine was, but because the consultancy clearly wasn’t actually knocking Figeac out of shape, just adding a degree of extra texture and weight.

2015 continues that trend. It seems Rolland’s work here is subtle. This is no doubt because of the firm hand of the technical team, the exceptional terroir here expressing itself and a very strong sense of individualism and independence that the Manoncourt family exhibits. The question is when will the price start to rise substantially? I’d predict this year. I do so hope I’m wrong, because I’d love to afford this wine, but my feeling is it will. The property gave no indications and I didn’t ask when I visited, but surely it’s the logic. We all know it’s what Figeac has to do to eventually become part of the ‘A’ team. There’s no doubt the wine can do it – this complete 2015 could easily be bracketed with Cheval Blanc this year – and the wine rivals Figeac’s remarkable 2009 albeit in a different way.

The vintage, stretching across three weeks, started on the 21st September with the Merlot [finishing the 25th for that variety], the Cabernet Sauvignon began on the 5th October [finishing on the 15th] with the Cabernet Franc harvested between the 12th and 14th October. These are late dates. They would have encountered some rain delaying the harvest, but clearly the gravelly soils drained well, as the wine exhibits impressive weight and alcohol.

Petit-Figeac, St Emilion Grand Cru

Mid depth; purple at edge; fresh looking; lovely Cab freshness – blackcurrants; lift; vivid palate; with freshness but also composure; nice texture and elegance; very nice wine; elegant but with depth; certain modesty; nice fresh finish. Composed. [32% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 48% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% new oak]. Drink 2020-2025. 91-93+

Château Figeac, St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé

Lovely depth of colour; deep at centre but very healthy looking; colour tight to rim; lovely pure blackcurrant aromatics; really great; this has great clarity; minerality; depth on the nose; lovely stuff; great entry; pure fruit; focused and layered; good acidity; lovely composure and elegance; really nicely balanced. Terrific effort for me [as a lover of the left bank this really speaks to me!]. Cool in the fashionable sense but also in the modesty – an impeccable effort. Best wine at Figeac since 2009? [43% Cabernet Sauvignon, 29% Merlot, 28% Cabernet Franc, 14% alc, 41hl/ha, pH 3.75]. Drink 2023-2040. 96-98+

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