Appellation: Saint Emilion
Vineyard area: 40 hectares
Average annual production: 10,000 cases (Chateau Figeac)
Standard blend: Cabernet Sauvignon (35%), Cabernet Franc (35%), Merlot (30%)
Other wines: La Grange Neuve de Figeac, Petit Figeac
Figeac has a history that stretches back further than many chateaux in Bordeaux. It originated in the 2nd century with a Gallo-Roman villa, named after the Figeacus family. Traces of this villa remain evident on the site today, as do architectural features from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, when the estate fell into the hands of the de Cazes family. In 1654 it passed to the Carles family through Marie de Cazes’ marriage, and this is where Figeac’s history gathers momentum. Business connections helped the Carles market Figeac to the British merchants, and the wines quickly became popular in Paris and northern France. The Carles also built the chateau that we see today.
In its heyday, the estate reached a staggering 200 hectares, making it one of the largest Bordeaux vineyards in the appellation. But in the 19th century, poor economic conditions and the spiralling debts of its owner the Countess de Carle-Trajet meant that the property was sold and subdivided many times. By 1892, when an ancestor of the Manoncourt family, Andre Villepigue, purchased the estate, the area had dwindled to 37 hectares of vines.
In 1947, Andre’s grandson Thierry Manoncourt took the reins at Figeac. He qualified as an Agricultural Engineer at the INA in Paris, and the wines improved significantly under his stewardship. Thierry ran the estate with his wife, Marie-France, until his death in 2010; in that time he doubled the area of the vat cellars and renovated the chateau façade. In addition, he was president of the Jurade de Saint Emilion from 1964 to 1987.
Up until April 2013 the wine production was run by Thierry’s son-in-law, Count Eric d’Aramon. Many were surprised recently when he was replaced by Frederic Faye (then technical director of Figeac), with the news coming just a couple of weeks after the appointment of eminent wine consultant Michel Rolland. Faye has promised that Rolland will respect the style of the wine, though the latter has expressed his goal to see the chateau promoted to Grand Cru Classe A status.
Figeac in the Right Bank 100
Figeac is part of the Liv-ex Right Bank 100 index, which sits in the wider Bordeaux 500 index. The Right Bank 100 has notably outperformed other indices, posting a 13.3% gain over the last year despite many others reporting a loss.There are several wines driving the index higher. Pavie and Angelus have made gains on the back of their promotion last September to Grand Cru Classe A, while Clos Fourtet and Eglise Clinet have seen prices rise since their 2009s received perfect and near-perfect Parker scores. Yet it is Figeac that has been consistently outperforming other wines. Until Angelus crept ahead in the last month, Figeac had long been the best performer.
Of Figeac’s ten most recent physical vintages (currently 2000-2009; the 2010s will be added to the index later in the month), all but the 2006 have seen a price rise over the last year, with an average movement of 11%. Figeac 2009, awarded 98 points by James Suckling, has increased by 34%.
Figeac divides opinion in the wine industry. Notoriously, Robert Parker has awarded it few scores over 90, while Jancis Robinson scores it more favourably. Parker has not given a Figeac score since 2008, amidst rumours that he fell out with Eric d’Aramon. With d’Aramon no longer managing the estate, and Michel Rolland – whose wines are considered to be favoured by Parker – now acting as consultant, perhaps this situation will change. This may not necessarily mean anything for Figeac. As yet, the wine has not needed Parker’s approval in order to rise to success.