La Tour Figeac Plants More Cabernet Franc, Less Merlot After 2017 Frost

Chateau La Tour Figeac. Photo: Guy Collins

Chateau La Tour Figeac, a Saint Emilion wine estate owned by German industrialist Otto Rettenmaier, is shifting the balance of its vineyard more toward cabernet franc and away from merlot following the frost-hit 2017 vintage.

The grand cru wine estate, covering 14.6 hectares (36 acres) near Chateau Figeac, lost around 95% of its harvest in 2017 to a sharp spring frost which blighted many other vineyards in the Bordeaux region, although most less severely.

The wine estate made just 2,000 bottles of wine that year, according to Director Pierre Blois, compared to normal production of closer to 60,000. While 65% of the vineyard is merlot and 35% cabernet franc, damage to the crop in 2017 was so great that the blend was determined essentially by what had survived: eight barrels of cabernet franc and two barrels of merlot.

“I’m smiling now, I wasn’t smiling then” said Blois at a tasting of the 2017 vintage held in Brussels Feb. 18 by Bordeaux wine trade group l’Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux. “ You can make very fine wine with cabernet franc.”

Next year La Tour Figeac is converting a one-hectare parcel of vines to cabernet franc from merlot, and has similar plans for more conversion in future years.

Blois said while parts of the vineyard suit merlot, “we want to move toward 50-50.” The land at La Tour Figeac is a mixture of gravel and sand on a clay subsoil.

He also said increasing temperatures in Bordeaux in recent years were helping cabernet franc, which can struggle to ripen in cooler, wetter vintages.

The vineyard was created in 1879 when it was separated out from neighboring Chateau Figeac. It has been owned by the Rettenmaier family since 1973.

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I am a journalist writing about the Bordeaux wine market.

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