While a fair share of Bordeaux vineyards can claim significant historical pedigree, few would be able to touch Chateau Figeac - it is one of a select few St Emilion vineyards to have been continuously occupied for over 2,000 years! The estate dates back to the second century when even the ancient Romans who occupied the area were aware of its outstanding terroir.
One figure dominates the Chateau’s modern era, and that is Thierry Manoncourt who ran the property from 1947 until his death in 2010, just shy of his 93rd birthday. Under his leadership, the Chateau was the first major Right Bank estate to embrace modern techniques such as temperature controlled, stainless steel vats.
The traditional-styled Bordeaux has, understandably, gone through a wide range of iterations in its 2,000-plus year history - yet it still manages to surprise and delight. The 2016 earned rave reviews from critics, with Jancis Robinson hailing it as a wine of which “...the Manoncourt family should be very proud.”
Really fabulous on the nose, with sweet milk chocolate, flowers, currant and plum. Full-bodied, with incredible length. The tannins are so silky, but they are warm and cuddly. You just want to hug it. Powerful but so attractive. The blend is one third each of Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. 97-100 points, Wine Spectator.
The aromas in this are amazing, with blueberries, blackberries and fresh mushrooms. Black olives. So aromatic. Full-bodied, with super velvety tannins and lovely depth of ripe fruit. Balanced. Wild flavours on the finish of meat, berries and forest fruits. Hints of decadence. 33% Cabernet Franc, 33% Merlot and 33% Cabernet Sauvignon. Best Figeac ever. Try after 2020. 98 points, jamessuckling (2/2012).
A ripe year like 2009 is kind to the Cabernet Sauvignon of Château Figeac. The wine is perfumed with new wood and sweet fruits, delicious black currant flavors giving both ripeness and freshness. The wine has weight and impressive density. A star of the vintage. 96 points, Roger Voss (2/2012).
Distinctive, with atypical (for St-Emilion) force and drive to the blackcurrant, roasted cedar and maduro tobacco flavours, which are supported by a dense, loam-tinged structure. Terrific roasted espresso, ganache and fig paste notes wait in reserve. Very muscular, but with the cut for balance. Best from 2017 through 2035. 96 points, James Molesworth (3/2012)
The 2009 Château Figeac is the normal blend of close to equal parts Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. It’s a beautiful wine that has classic Figeac style, yet is more reserved and backward than most in the vintage. Forest floor, truffle, blackcurrants, cigar ash and green tobacco notes all emerge from this full-bodied, ripe, yet pure, elegant Saint-Emilion that has good acidity and plenty of length. The tannins are ripe, yet firm, it’s nicely balanced, and it blossoms with time in the glass. Nevertheless, it needs another 4-5 years of cellaring to hit prime time, and it should keep for 2-3 decades. 95 points, jebdunnuck.com (2/2018).
The 2009 seems to have closed down a little since I last tasted it: gravelly and smoky, what you might describe as austere for the vintage. Stylistically it is actually similar to the 2008 Figeac with an appealing savoury entry, grainy tannin, a pinch of black pepper and a slightly clipped, but focused finish. This is one of the few Right Bank wines whereby the terroir is more expressive than the growing season, so it will appeal to those that appreciate the style of Figeac, though not necessarily to those that prefer the voluptuousness of the 2009s. Additionally, comparing it directly to the 2010, I suspect that it might not have quite as much longevity as the succeeding vintage. That said, this is still a knockout Saint Emilion that is going to bestow a lot of drinking pleasure over the years. 94 points, Wine Advocate (8/2016).
Red-ruby. Aromas of redcurrant and plum are complicated by gravel, tobacco, wild herbs and cedar. Lush, suave and seamless, with noteworthy energy and a restrained sweetness to the fine-grained flavours of red fruits, tobacco and herbs. Insinuating tobacco and cedar notes perfume the mouth as the wine opens in the glass. Very firm wine, finishing with noble, edge-free tannins, lingering spiciness and sneaky length. Quite ripe for Figeac but without any excesses. 93 points, International Wine Cellar (7/2012).
Very dark crimson. Real energy and richness and tension. Lovely polish and lots of Cabernet influence. Great. Really lively finish. Not at all too rich. Tannins only on the end! Tension trumps vintage. You could enjoy this now with food! 18.5/20 points, jancisrobinson.com (6/2015).
St.-Émilion is the star of Bordeaux’s Right Bank, north of the Dordogne River. The rich red wines produced in St.-Émilion, based on Merlot and Cabernet Franc, are less tannic and generally more fruit-driven in flavour than the Cabernet-based wines of Left Bank. Merlot thrives on the plateaus high above the Dordogne, where the soil is filled with sand and clay, a perfect medium for creating opulent, fruit-forward wines. With a typically savoury character, St.-Émilion wines are sometimes called the “Burgundies of Bordeaux.” These refined reds, with loads of finesse, are elegant companions to beef, chicken, pork and duck.
The wines of St.-Émilion were not included in the famous 1855 classification of Bordeaux, which ranked wines of the Left Bank. In 1955, St.-Émilion published its own classification, based on soil analysis, wine quality and reputation of the properties. Unlike the 1855 classification, St.-Emilion’s system requires properties to continuously prove themselves. The list is revised regularly, most recently in 2012. There are two tiers within the classification, Premier Grand Cru Classé and Grand Cru Classé. There are currently just 18 Premier Grand Cru properties and 64 Grand Cru Classé properties.
The St.-Émilion appellation is home to hundreds of individual producers, enhancing the variety of wines made there. Many of the properties remain small, family-run enterprises, unlike the large châteaux of the Left Bank. The area is also the base of France’s controversial micro-châteaux or garagiste wine movement; these innovative winemakers operate outside the traditional classification system, making very high quality (and very expensive) highly extracted wines.