The Primeurs for 2013 have started somewhat oddly with the very sad news of the death of Christine Valette of an old St Emilion family (who used to own Pavie) and owner of up-and-rising star Château Troplong Mondot and news of the extravagant party at Angelus with its bells, fanfares and James Bond music.
The sun is shining with temperatures of 24°C to start the Futures week I have been to taste the 2013 Figeac, a stalthwart St Emilion property despite not being promoted to an A in the 2012 classification, it is recognised by connoisseurs as one of the finest St Emilions (and normally not sky-high pices). I do not think it is going to be that representative of the vintage as a whole. Its typically gravel soils which descend a number of metres gave its grapes a headstart, in such a painfully late year it seems to have made the difference.
Although the primeur week is just beginning, already the reds from the beleaguered 2013 vintage have been labelled as light, at best delicate and elegant and very variable. As wine merchant and wine producer Christian Moueix says it is an early drinking vintage ideal for restaurants but ‘a vintage to forget’. Producers have generally produced tiny quantities and at a very high labour and inputs cost as man had to painstakingly rectify each of nature’s stages to producing the wine in 2013 somewhat like a painful ‘haut couture’. With a vintage that is perceived as under par however, there is a lot of pressure to reduce prices (following a 30% on average already on the 2012 vintage). At Figeac for the Cabernets there were no less than 3 different green harvests; one at budding (to make sure the bunches that develop are well separate), at ‘veraison’ and two weeks before harvest to get rid of any extra berries in the bunches. For the Merlot all of the berries that had suffered from ‘millerandage’ that is that were aborted were removed by hand.
I found the opposite at Figeac this morning; yields are as high as normal (36 hl/ha), the harvest took place pretty optimally between 1st and 15th October, the colour and fruit I found in the glass was rich and deep and rounded (no dilution here). The Grand Vin is made up of a predominance of Cabernet Sauvignon – who would have thought it in 2013. This is the first Figeac made with the new team which includes Michel Rolland as consultant.
As Managing Director Frederic Faye explained (he is one of 8 families to live on site at Figeac) ‘Figeac is a grand terroir of Cabernet Sauvignon wit its deep gravels. Cabernet Sauvignon is able to ripen in this’ hot’ environment (a vineyard plot is aptly referred to as ‘les Graves de l’enfer, hell!). Also the microclimate next to Pomerol is particularly warm (it does not have the tempering effect of the Atlantic and Gironde Estuary of the Medoc). In a year when rains cut short the final ripening stage this helped the wine’s concentration. In the cellar the skins were extracted gently using one and half volumes of pumping overs per day during the first half of the fermentation when alcohol levels are low and exraction is gentle (no delestage or pigeage this year). In the second half of the fermentation it was more just keeping the cap wet. The total time of ‘cuvaison’was relatively long but gentle and lasted a month in all.
2013 Petit Figeac: fresh black juicy fruit, ‘gourmande’ and light tannins
40% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Franc, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon – 35% new oak
2013 Figeac: blackcurrant and cream, charm and finesse for this feminine wine but with firm backbone that shows she is no dame to be messed with
30% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon – 100% new oak
The 2014 vegetative season has started with the budding and the appearance of the first leaves in their pastel tones of light green and pink glory – to welcome the world’s press and buyers this week. At the same time as the future of the 2013 is being decided, the 2014 vintage is just beginning and so far, full of promise.