Family Legacy at its Finest

DSC_0008Bordeaux is a region rich in history and its story is littered with recognizable names: Eleanor of Aquitaine, Richard II, the Rothschilds. When you study the history of Bordeaux wine producing estates you find that many are very long and even more complex, with properties changing hands over and over. Enter Chateau Figeac, with its relatively stable modern history. In fact, the property has been owned by the same family, the Manoncourts, since 1892. In fact, today Madame Manoncourt still lives on property year round. She also plans to pass the family legacy along to her four daughters and 27 grandchildren.

DSC_0001Sadly over time the estate, which dates to the 15th Century, has been reduced in size. Originally 200 hectares, the estate nonetheless remains large in comparison to its neighbors at 40 hectares (about 100 acres). It’s also why so many of the surrounding estates include the name Figeac, as plots were sold off they kept the name Figeac thanks to the outstanding reputation of the wine. A unique name, modern archeology has traced the name back to a 2nd Century Roman villa call Figeacus. But even the vines themselves have history, with the oldest plot of Cabernet Franc dating to a 1921 planting.

DSC_0002Renowned not only for the quality of its wine but also its unique blend, as it is only one of two Right Bank estates to grow a majority of Cabernet, Figeac has a stunning reputation. Despite my many adventures in Saint Emilion, I had never had the chance to visit Chateau Figeac or to taste the wine. So when April rolled around and my parents were coming for a visit, I reached out about the possibility of a tour. Thankfully we were graciously accepted and even had the chance to meet the lovely Madame Manoncourt. A bit surprised to find us on the property immediately following en Primeur week, both she and her estate manager took a few minutes to chat with us, asking about where we were from and if we liked the wine.

DSC_0018While the estate does not practice organic or biodynamic viticulture, they nonetheless focus on sustainable agriculture. Since 2014 the entire vineyard has been managed without weed killers. In addition, two beehives are kept on the property to encourage natural pollination. In addition, the estate remains true to their traditions. The old basket press was used until 2007 when it was replaced with a vertical hydraulic press, as opposed to the popular pneumatic press. Vinfication occurs in a combination of both stainless steel and oak vats. The vats are left open with a specialized wooden grill at the top. This grill keeps the cap submerged at all times for a combination of punch down and pumping over.  The wine is then aged in 100% new oak. And it is wildly popular. At the time of my visit during the en primeur release the three latest vintages had sold out within three days.

DSC_0021Then eventually it was on to the tasting, held in the former 17th century cellar, for a glass of the 2011 vintage. Equal parts Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Merlot the wine was soft but with a firm structure. Cherry, anise and clove were underlined by a persistent mineralty. Spicy and warm the wine also offered a slightly meaty, smoky and cedary notes.

A Whole New Digital Look

Bordeaux is beginning to wake up to the reality that is the modern digital age. Note: I said beginning. They aren’t entirely there yet but I have to give major credit to Margaux Second Growth Chateau Brane Cantenac for their new digital strategy.

Chateau+vinesOf course, this being Bordeaux, the estate has a long and complex history that played a critical role in the estate’s development. I could go into a ton of boring details but I’d rather not, it’s not the purpose of today’s post. In fact, unlike most of the posts I write this was not prompted by an estate visit or even a tasting, rather I want to talk about modernization in Bordeaux. Nevertheless a few contextual details are important. Founded in 18th Century by the Gorce family, today Brane Cantenac is run by Henri Lurton. One of ten children of Lucien Lurton, Henri inherited one of his father’s ten estates and is credited with a dramatic increase in the quality of the estate’s wine. But not only is Henri investing in the quality of the wine but also in making the estate more accessible to the public. A leading component of this charge is the new digital strategy.

Partnering with up-and-coming agency Taylor Yandell, Chateau Brane Cantenac has devoted itself to an entirely new website and digital communication plan. Here again I could bore you with a detailed list of everything that has changed since the launch back in May (yes, that’s how long it’s taken me to get around to writing this post) but I’d rather talk about some of the things they are doing right:

  • Mobile Friendly!!!! It’s amazing how many Bordeaux chateaux still rely on Flash based websites, never mind the fact that the information available on these sites is not available/useable on iPhones or iPads. Not only does the Brane Cantenac site not use any flash it is also easily navigable on an iPhone (yes I tested it) and is responsive to the type of device (again yes I tested this). This is perfect for allowing customers to look up information about the wines or the estate itself on the go.
  • Downloadable Brochures: Ok, this may not seem like a huge deal but again it’s a great way for people to engage with the estate at their own time and pace. As a busy blogger on the go, I often find myself frustrated by poor signal strength or the inability to access data when I need it. A detailed, yet succinct downloadable brochure with powerful imagery that is optimized for my device is a magical thing in these situations.
  • Consistency: Again this would seem to be a given but I have to give kudos for the consistency of the branding across the Brane Cantenac digital presence. 11241430_1000646029959289_8407081107260176349_n
  • A Professional Space: Again a blogger’s best friend. I was able to download all of the imagery for this post off their website without having to resort to saving specific images via the right-hand click or screenshots.
  • Food and Wine Pairings: This is personally one of my favorite things about the new website. As a professional working in the US Wine Industry I recognize how important a tool this is. As a foodie and a nerd, I recognize the thought and care that went into these suggestions. Here too the recipes are downloadable with consistent branding and easy to follow suggestions. And more importantly the food is accessible and approachable. The biggest challenge the estate will face is refreshing these offerings periodically to avoid being stagnant or dare I say it boring.Brane_gastronomy

So now that I’ve praised the praised these efforts, check it out for yourself:

A Return to Sanity

April brought its own stress. May was fun. But June and early July marked a descent into madness.

June began on a high note with a long-overdue visit from my best friend, A. But quickly thereafter I was faced with VinExpo, France’s leading professional wine fair, as well as a presentation during the show and assiting Wine Mosaic with their community management needs. The week passed by in a blur of long days, great neworking and a selected number of amazing tastings.

Shortly thereafter my attention turned to the blackhole that was my thesis and the WSET Level 3, both of which fell within a few days of each other. Of course being me, despite my best efforts, everything fell to the last minute. But the good news… It’s DONE!  And I am just one oral defense away from finishing my MBA. (Queue the crazy happy dance!) And a few months wait away from my exam results. (Fingers crossed please)

This past weekend was a long one here in France, thanks to Bastille Day. So I ran away with my other good friend K. for a relaxing weekend at the beach. And now I’ve found my sanity again. As well as my will to write/catch up on my back-log of long-overdue blogs. So readers, stay tuned there is a whole host of great new posts headed your way!