Today’s Story: Château-Figeac
Château-Figeac is an ancient Bordeaux wine estate located in Saint-Émilion that traces its roots to the 2nd century and the Gallo-Roman period. The estate is named for Figeacus who built a villa on the property, and with such excellent terroir it is one of the few wine properties to see continuous use for the past 2,000 years. In 1586, Raymond de Cazes rebuilt the origins of the château in classic Renaissance style and the cellars today where the wine ages during its second year trace to this construction. In 1654, the estate transferred by marriage of Marie de Cazes to the Carles family who were very influential in the region and undertook modernization of viticultural techniques. The Carles family also built the current château in 1780. During the late 18th and early 19th centuries as financial crises roiled the region, Château-Figeac sold some of its land holdings, including 15 hectares that became Château Cheval Blanc, and passed through seven owners in 50 years.
In 1892, the Manoncourt family acquired the heart of Château-Figeac and brought in Albert Macquin to structure the vineyards, bring in oak vats from the property, and test novel agricultural species on the property. The label was created in 1907 and bears the crest of Henri de Chèvremont (great-grandfather of Thierry Manoncourt) and for decades the estate produced world-class Bordeaux largely under management of enologists. In 1943, however, Thierry Manoncourt participated in his first vintage and convinced his mother to keep the estate and play a more hands-on role. In 1947, Thierry started at Figeac full-time with a degree in agricultural engineering and tirelessly set about learning and understanding the incredible terroir.
The 20th century was filled with other milestones for Château-Figeac, including its classification as Premier Grand Cru Classé in 1955. Figeac became famous for its near 1:1:1 blend with Thierry planting the vineyards to 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Cabernet Franc, and 30% Merlot and his wife Marie-France joins him to increase the wine’s global exposure. During the late 1980s, Laure and Eric d’Aramon (daughter and son-in-law of Thierry and Marie-France) moved to the château to help manage the estate and Eric eventually took operational control until 2012. Agricultural engineer Frédéric Faye joined Château-Figeac in 2002 and learned their vineyards and winemaking techniques alongside Thierry until his death in 2010. Today, Madame Manoncourt alongside her daughters and team guide the estate onward keeping to the traditions set forth by Thierry.
Today, Château-Figeac consists of 40 hectares of vineyards (down from its peak of 200 hectares) and is the largest wine estate in Saint-Émilion. The signature features of the terroir, three gravel ridges, provide excellent growing conditions for the three grape varieties planted there and the castle finds itself surrounded by 14 hectares of parks, meadows, ponds, and woods as well. Figeac respects the biodiversity of their vineyards as a founding principle, while also relying heavily on scientific analysis of the terroir and traditional yet modernized winemaking techniques. Château-Figeac produces about 100,000 bottles of wine per year, in addition to about 40,000 bottles of the second wine Petit-Figeac. For more on this remarkable estate, check out their website here.
Today’s Wine: 2014 Château-Figeac
40% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28% Cabernet Franc; 13% ABV
The 2014 Figeac is opaque deep ruby in color. I decanted this for 2 hours and drank it over the following 3 hours. The nose is ridiculously complex and profound, changing dramatically as I drank this and showcasing aromas of blackberry, blackcurrant, redcurrant, crushed lilac, anise, pencil shavings, graphite, cigar box, tobacco, loamy earth, crushed green peppercorn, baking spice, and oak. Once in the mouth, the wine displays notes of blackberry, plum, blueberry, redcurrant, violet, licorice, tobacco, scorched earth, mocha, dried herbs, and toasted oak. This wine is full-bodied with medium (+) acidity, high tannins, and a long finish with added notes of slate and iron.
Price: $115 (average price in US is $166). I got this for an absolutely incredible price at one of my local wine stores, but even around $160 per bottle this is fantastic and still less expensive than other vintages that overshadow 2014. Pair this with Beef Wellington, stewed game, or veal.