The World of Fine Wine‘s Simon Field MW is in Bordeaux for the 2021 vintage en primeur tastings. In the first of a regular series of dispatches from the region, he gives his verdict on St-Emilion’s Château Figeac.
Figeac’s natural atmosphere of calm and classical decorum was never likely to be especially perturbed by something as inconsequential as a “difficult” vintage.
The château is on a roll at the moment; the apparently hubristic decision of Cheval Blanc, Ausone, and Angélus to jump the Cru Classé ship could either be viewed as a disaster for the appellation or as a marvelous opportunity for the advancement of properties, including Figeac, which have hitherto been biding their time in the shadows.
The defections are unlikely significantly to jeopardize the properties in question; their pedigree is beyond dispute, and it may well be that the appellation, fluid of construction and therefore more tense and invigorating than the 1885 Classification over the river, can brush off this rejection with a Gascon shrug.
Property values do not appear to have suffered and there is a genuine air of excitement at Valandraud, Figeac, and a few other contenders for elevation as they await the emission of white smoke later in the year.
Bordeaux 2021: Figeac’s seriousness of intent
Figeac has made its case eloquently with the quality of its 2021, and just to underline seriousness of intent, it has also spent an enormous amount of money renovating its chai, now surely one of the most aesthetically pleasing in the region.
Vats of both stainless steel and wood, despite their differing sizes and base materials, all seem to fit the symmetrical template, an aesthetic captured in the familial home itself, even in the magnificent, dare one say iconic, 17th-century portals which guard the property. The pillars of wisdom.
Merlot did not have an easy time in 2021; the graph which details monthly precipitation reminds us just how wet and miserable the month of June was; this in addition to the early frost, issues with both coulure and millerandage and the somewhat paradoxical juxtaposition of dilution and the temptation to over-compensate with chaptalization, over-extraction and so forth.
Far from easy, all in all. Figeac has addressed the problem in the senior wine by significantly lowering the percentage of the most challenged varietal, Merlot and by addressing the shortfall with both Cabernets, the Sauvignon taking up 40 percent of the blend, the Franc an unusually high 31 percent.
The final Cabernet was only brought in on October 19, in defiance of a very poor weather forecast which subsequently proved unfounded.
Figeac’s luck is clearly in at the moment; its 2021 is a symphonic study in poised self-belief and a magisterial refusal to buckle under the apparent pressure of a crisis. What crisis?
2021 Château Figeac St Emilion Premier Grand Cru Classé
Deep episcopal purple, darker and richer than one has the right to expect; encyclopedic aromatic, violets, plums, smaller red-berried fruit, then woodsmoke, soft spice, and a beguiling almost savory backdrop, presaging a long and glorious evolution. Magnifique!