|What a treat to be starting with a deliciously old wine! As a mere mortal, its not often I have the opportunity to sample such a prestigious claret with a touch of fine age about it, but allow me to share a little information surrounding a Saturday evening delight.
Château Figeac dates back to Gallo-Roman times when it was a much larger estate, coming close to 200 hectares in the late 18th century. Since then, it has been split and sold off until it became the modern day estate of roughly 40 hectares. This is considered the largest estate in St Emilion, situated in the north west area of the appellation. St Emilion is made up of small properties unlike the Medoc and has a distinctive encépagement, or selection of grape varieties. Cabernet Franc is given an equal footing with Merlot on the gravelly soils of St Emilion, where it is locally known as Bouchet. The appellation itself missed out on the 1855 Classification of the Wines of the Gironde but has since proved its worth as a reputable contender for the top wines of Bordeaux.
January 1947 was the beginning of Thierry Manoncourt’s reign at Chateau Figeac, during which the estate rose to its prestigious position in St Emilion with encouragement from his background in engineering and science to pioneer new vinification techniques in Bordeaux. Although his son-in-law Comte Eric d’Aramon took charge of the running of the estate in the 1980s, Thierry was actively involved in the running of the estate until his death in 2010 and had completed sixty consecutive vintages in 2007. Thierry was the first of the family line to run and own the estate since 1892, when his great-grandfather Henri de Chevremont bought Château Figeac.
Robert Parker describes Figeac as having ‘an extraordinary terroir’ and one of the ‘most elegant’ wines of the region and I am certainly inclined to agree. It is known for having a good record in the unfortunate off vintages of Bordeaux, as well as producing stunners in the very best years. The so-called off vintages are due to the region’s temperate climate, where the weather comes in from the west, otherwise known as the Atlantic sea and can be unpredictable. 1980 is not known as an outstanding vintage across the board but luckily this bottle of Chateau Figeac 1980 stood the test of time.
The wine spends 21-25 days fermenting and macerating in temperature-controlled wooden vats. It is then aged in 100% new oak barrels with only fining before bottling.
My sources include Jancis Robertson, Robert Parker and David Peppercorn.