The 2011 Figeac was quite sullen and unexpressive in its youth, and I dished out some parsimonious scores. Yet, two recent bottles have prompted me to raise my opinion on this vintage. It has an intense bouquet with blackberry, raspberry, and rose petals and a touch of marmalade.
These are aromas with ambition! The palate is well balanced with fine tannins, a fantastic body, and very focused and serious in style. This is a 2011 with plans on repaying those with the nous to cellar it for a few years. Very classy, this is well made. Tasted blind at the annual 10-Year-On tasting.
Drink 2022 - 2038
Neal Martin, Vinous.com (April 2022)
35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Cabernet Franc, 30% Merlot. Winter was cold and dried up until the second half of March. The sudden temperature rise triggered an early budburst on 26 March. April was almost summer-like. The months of May and June were marked by a significant deficit of rainfall requiring appropriate working of the soil, according to the principle that ‘a good ploughing is worth two good waterings’.
Canopy management was also carried out. These actions greatly benefited the vineyard and prevented the vines from severe water deficits. In this way, they generally resisted the heat peaks in late June. The Cabernets Franc and Sauvignon had a homogeneous veraison; the Merlot was a little longer due to the lack of water. The second half of July was cool and rainy, considerably slowing the ripening process.
Thinning work was more significant and meticulous than in previous years. The work done in the vines throughout the season, particularly the vine canopy work to sort bunches and to equalise ripeness, was immense. This, however, enabled the estate to obtain perfectly healthy vines and, with the help of September weather, to wait for optimal ripeness in the grapes. Harvest 6–27 September.
Mid garnet. Very evolved, charming and confident on the nose. Fresh and lively with real zing and lift. Gorgeous actually. Just the sort of aerienne character that distinguishes red Bordeaux. A real savoury/salty character. Refined. Lovely texture.
Drink 2019 - 2037
Jancis Robinson MW, jancisrobinson.com (September 2019)
A pretty traditional style. A broad spectrum of red and black berries underlines a slew of dried herb and spice aromas. Taut and firm, medium body with a serious tannin structure that’s just about fully resolved. Long, elegant finish with a chalky texture. Drink or hold. Château Quintus vertical tasting.
James Suckling, jamessuckling.com (June 2022)
The pronounced notes of truffles, graphite and spices suggest a wine that has attained its apogee. After aeration, black fruit, including ripe plum, comes to the fore, along with spices and a touch of tobacco and meat.
The palate is at first surprisingly creamy in the context of the 2011 vintage, but the powerfully tannic framework asserts itself on the long finish.
Although very expressive of its terroir, this is such a singularly styled Figeac that it might be challenging to identify it as such in a blind tasting.
Drink 2022 - 2035
Yohan Castaing, Decanter.com (September 2021)
About this WINE
Château Figeac is one of the leading St. Emilion estates and its wine, with its high Cabernet content, has often been described as the most Médoc-like in St-Emilion. The estate is located in the north-west of the appellation with its vineyards adjoining those of Cheval Blanc. Its 54 hectares of vineyards lie on a deep, Médoc-like gravel topsoil over a flinty, iron-rich subsoil. Figeac was promoted in 2022 to the level of Premier Grand Cru Classé A, the top tier of the St Emilion classification.
St Emilion is one of Bordeaux's largest producing appellations, producing more wine than Listrac, Moulis, St Estèphe, Pauillac, St Julien and Margaux put together. St Emilion has been producing wine for longer than the Médoc but its lack of accessibility to Bordeaux's port and market-restricted exports to mainland Europe meant the region initially did not enjoy the commercial success that funded the great châteaux of the Left Bank.
St Emilion itself is the prettiest of Bordeaux's wine towns, perched on top of the steep limestone slopes upon which many of the region's finest vineyards are situated. However, more than half of the appellation's vineyards lie on the plain between the town and the Dordogne River on sandy, alluvial soils with a sprinkling of gravel.
Further diversity is added by a small, complex gravel bed to the north-east of the region on the border with Pomerol. Atypically for St Emilion, this allows Cabernet Franc and, to a lesser extent, Cabernet Sauvignon to prosper and defines the personality of the great wines such as Ch. Cheval Blanc.
In the early 1990s there was an explosion of experimentation and evolution, leading to the rise of the garagistes, producers of deeply-concentrated wines made in very small quantities and offered at high prices. The appellation is also surrounded by four satellite appellations, Montagne, Lussac, Puisseguin and St. Georges, which enjoy a family similarity but not the complexity of the best wines.
St Emilion was first officially classified in 1954, and is the most meritocratic classification system in Bordeaux, as it is regularly amended. The most recent revision of the classification was in 2012
Cabernet Sauvignon Blend
Cabernet Sauvignon lends itself particularly well in blends with Merlot. This is actually the archetypal Bordeaux blend, though in different proportions in the sub-regions and sometimes topped up with Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.
In the Médoc and Graves the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend can range from 95% (Mouton-Rothschild) to as low as 40%. It is particularly suited to the dry, warm, free- draining, gravel-rich soils and is responsible for the redolent cassis characteristics as well as the depth of colour, tannic structure and pronounced acidity of Médoc wines. However 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines can be slightly hollow-tasting in the middle palate and Merlot with its generous, fleshy fruit flavours acts as a perfect foil by filling in this cavity.
In St-Emilion and Pomerol, the blends are Merlot dominated as Cabernet Sauvignon can struggle to ripen there - when it is included, it adds structure and body to the wine. Sassicaia is the most famous Bordeaux blend in Italy and has spawned many imitations, whereby the blend is now firmly established in the New World and particularly in California and Australia.