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May 18, 2015

Figeac and La Conseillante 2014

figeac

There has been a flurry of releases this morning but two in particular stand out, the superb St. Emilion Estate Chateau Figeac for £575 per case of 12 bottles and the wonderful Pomerol, La Conseillante for £640.

During the en primeur week in Bordeaux we very impressed with Chateau Figeac, producing a wine close to or on par with their 2010. In fact during conversations Figeac kept coming up as one of the stars of the show. This morning it has released 8% higher ex-London than last year, but interestingly 11.5% lower than the 2005 release. The average case price of Figeac since 2004 is £816 and £686 excluding 2009 and 2010; today’s release offers an excellent entry point, 29% below its average case price.

The 2014 is a very fine Figeac indeed, half the price of the 2010 and 58% less than 2009. In 2014 Neal Martin has awarded the Estate its highest score ever from the Wine Advocate, with a superb 93-95 points, comfortably surpassing its neighbour Angelus (91-93) released at £1,700. Figeac 2014 was also awarded 93-96 from the Wine Spectator, potentially the same score as the 2009 and 2010 and 94-95 from James Suckling, the same initial score as the 2010. At £575, £48 per bottle, the 2014 Figeac is extremely compelling indeed.

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Chateau Figeac is one of the oldest properties in Bordeaux, dating back to the 2nd Century under the Gallo-Roman Empire when a man named Figeacus built his villa on the site.  It’s unknown whether he planted a vineyard, but given that Figeacus was Roman and that the ruins of an ancient water supply system still remain visible point to the fact that the great terroir of Figeac was recognized nearly two thousand years ago.

By the late 18th Century, one family had owned Chateau Figeac for nearly 500 years and the estate had grown to 200 hectares.  However, by the time the Manoncourt family purchased the estate in 1892, large portions of the estate had been sold off and only 37 hectares remained.  The late Thierry Manoncourt, who passed away only a few days from his 93rd birthday in August 2010, managed the estate since 1947 after graduating with a degree in agricultural engineering.  Under his direction, Figeac was the first Right Bank estate to use temperature-controlled vats for fermentation as well as one of the first to produce a second wine. His son-in-law, Eric d’Aramon, took over more management responsibilities as Thierry progressed in years. Sadly, after a falling out with his mother-in-law, Thierry’s widow, Eric left the estate after 25 years and a new manager, Frederic Faye, as well as wine consultant to the stars, Michel Rolland, were brought in.  This has likely resulted in a more approachable style to Figeac in its youth.  Under d’Aramon and Thierry, the wines had been very traditional in style.

Because of the high proportion of gravel in Figeac’s vineyards, the blend is unlike most Right Bank estates, with 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Cabernet Franc and 30% Merlot and the intention to increase Cabernet Sauvignon to approximately 40% of the vineyard plantings.  The oldest vines are 100 years of age while the average age is 45 years.  In the past, the blend tended to be equal portions of each grape but under Faye and Rolland, the decision varies by vintage.  Average annual production is 10,000 cases and the 2014 is a blend of 40% Merlot, 32% Cabernet Sauvignon and 28% Cabernet Franc.

La Conseillante is a leading Pomerol estate that offers fantastic value for money, releasing this morning for £640, a £10 increase on 2013. Leading Pomerol wines are synonymous with high prices, such is the quality and small production, but La Conseillante 2014′s release is less than half that of L’Eglise Clinet which released at £1,300 and more than £200 cheaper than L’Evangile, which released at £865. The very fine 2014 will be the best Pomerol value proposition of the vintage, however, with less than 4,000 cases made, there will not be a lot to go around.

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The earliest records of Ch. La Conseillante date back to 1756 when it was owned and managed by the Conseillan family.  In 1871, the Nicolas family – owners of a well-established negociant firm – purchased the estate and still remain the owners today. The estate is just over 11 hectares and located to the east of the Pomerol plateau, bordering and in fact partially located in St. Emilion, with mainly clay and gravel soil. The high percentage of clay suits Merlot perfectly and the vineyards are planted to 80% Merlot and 20% Cabernet Franc, with the intent to increase the percentage of Cabernet Franc to 25% – 30% over time.  Their oldest vines are nearly 60 years of age with the average age 35 years.

Under the astute direction of Director Jean-Michel Laporte, who took over in 2003, yields are kept low, sorting is meticulous, the winery underwent a massive upgrade, and the percentage of new oak has decreased to 50%-75% from 80%-100%. He has also ensured that the wine continues to be distinctive, with its tell-tale supple tannins and aromatics of violets.

Chateau Figeac 2014, 12×75 – £575 or 6×75 – £287.50 EP
Neal Martin, Wine Advocate, 93-95
Superb delineation on the nose, the oak here nicely integrated and allowing the Figeac character to be expressed, lifted red cherries and fresh strawberry dallying with cold stone and undergrowth scents, a touch of graphite courtesy of the Cabernets. The palate is medium-bodied with typical Figeac traits of cedar and undergrowth coming through with aeration, joined by blackberry and boysenberry. The finish here displayed more precision. Yes, just a little reserved and austere but the Cabernet is on song and imparting a structured finish. There are scurrilous rumours that the Figeac style is being forsaken. On the contrary, under winemaker Frédéric Faye and the Manoncourt family, it is retained and enhanced.
James Suckling 95-96
A beautiful Figeac with stones, oyster shells, chalk and fruits. Full-bodied and compacted with ultra-fine tannins. This is compressed and compacted with a wonderful style. The 32% cabernet sauvignon should give a unique structure here. More structured than the 
Wine Spectator 93-96
Sleek and tight, with layers of well-focused boysenberry, cherry and cassis fruit, backed by a long, iron-edged finish. There’s a whiff of tobacco in the background, too. Seriously grounded in terroir, this may take some time to unwind fully.

La Conseillante 2014, 12×75 – £640 or 6×75 – £320 EP
James Suckling, 94-95
Wow. This really kick in here with lots of subtel yet fresh fruit and a chewy long finish. Muscular and long with a wonderful elegance. The winemaker says the cabernet franc gives the style and structure here. And he’s right.
Neal Martin,  Wine Advocate 92-94
The Château La Conseillante 2014 is a blend of 78% Merlot and 22% Cabernet Franc, picked from 23 September to 2 October and 29 September until 6 October respectively at 35 hectoliters per hectare. There was just 2.5% vin de presse and the Grand Vin represents 88% of the total production this year. As you would expect, there is far more fruit intensity on the nose compared to the Duo, with dry tobacco-infused red and black fruit, hints of Provençal herb and black truffle – very Pomerol in style. The palate delivers the class. Supple in the mouth, very well judged acidity, poised and long, the Cabernet Franc drives this along and elevates the finish in terms of complexity. There are light spices entering the fray towards the finish that is feminine and nuanced with lovely salinity on the aftertaste that will urge you to take another sip. I was admittedly a little underwhelmed by the deuxième vin this year, but the grand vin makes up for it. It is another great Pomerol from ever-congenial winemaker Jean-Michel Laporte and his team. 

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