Nine years ago, when Frédéric Faye, winemaker and general manager of Saint-Émilion-based Château Figeac, suggested he wanted to make the estate’s wines “a little more approachable”, he raised some eyebrows. “People thought, ‘Oh no, he is going to turn [the wines] into Robert Parker wines’,” recalls the 37-year-old, who was then the estate’s technical director. “But that wasn’t my point. I wanted to make the wine easier to drink when it’s younger, and at the same time, keep its ageing potential.”
It was a rather bold suggestion but Faye understood that Bordeaux, for all the weight of tradition it carries, is not impervious to the changing habits of modern consumers. “In the 1980s, you had to wait at least 15 years before opening a bottle of Figeac. But today, not everyone wants to cellar it [that long],” says Faye, who first joined the château as its vineyard manager in 2008.
Since the 2010 vintage, he has been going for less extraction, and also ageing the wines in 100 percent new oak. Old oak is less porous because of the tartaric acid build-up in them, he notes. New barrels provide more oxygen interaction, which makes the tannins softer.
The 2011 vintage offers tannins that are notably silky for a rather youthful wine. The mid-palate is fruity and plush, with delicate touches of spice and menthol. This may not have the bold, baritone rigo