Visiting Figuière : July 2019

Views of Figuière’s Mourvèdre vines

Figuière: Tour of the vines

30 July, 2019

La Londe-les-Maures

There is no better place to be mid-summer in France than on the Mediterranean coast in the heart of Provence.  Contrary to what you may think, is actually one of the freshest places to be!

At just 2km from the sea, crisp breezes swoop throughout Figuière’s estate, and the many cork and pine trees throughout the property keep everything shaded and cool.

I arrive the day after the annual Figuière Festival – a weekend dedicated to the arts that takes place each year at the Estate with spectacles of theatre, music, rock concerts, dance, art exhibits, and live painting performances.

I’m greeted immediately by sky-high palms and statues crying Hairibo gummy-worm tears – the art installation currently on display by artist Laurent Perbos – without question I know this is going to be a FUN visit!

     

Photo 1 & 2: Exhibits at the winery and Tasting Room by artist Laurent Perbos

 

Vintage 2019 Prediction: Blockbuster! 

While April was incredibly wet and rainy in Provence (123 mm) during the whole month of May 12.5 mm of rain fell in 3 small episodes.   Since then it has not rained and the vegetation has dried up inexorably… just before I arrived the undergrowth smelled like pine resin and dust was accumulating on the leaves of the vines, which gives us a picture of pale and dehydrated greenery.

Fortunately Provence is one of the only regions where drip irrigation is permitted, heavily controlled by the local Syndicat, but permitted nevertheless.  Thanks to this, the vines are beautiful.  In the sub-soil the winter rains were sufficient, and water that is brought to the surface has prevented the vines from drying out.

However, despite healthy foliage the grapes were not getting big, so Figuière hoped for rain to improve not just the quantity but also the quality as maturity by concentration is not ideal for making the fine rosés that they produce.

They got their wish and rain it did!  Magali recounted to me that the Figuière Festival almost didn’t happen this past Saturday night – a massive thunderstorm came through between 17h00 and 18h30 – just before opening doors!

While it made for a quick-thinking, last-minute change of venue for the performances, the rain was more than welcome and needed for the vines.

At this stage, the harvest date is about three weeks away, because véraison is one week behind this year.  The cicadas also started singing a week later…

 

     
Photo 1 : Magali explaining drip irrigation that has started since June
Photo 2 : Vines have benefitted from Saturday’s big rain storm

Biodiversity – Birds, Bats & Wild Boars

From what the Estate can observe, the newly installed bird’s nests have not yet been inhabited to date. There may be 1 or 2 of them but nothing conclusive. It’s still early… the birds must acclimatize to this environment… and when the bugs come, the birds surely will.  Since it has been quite dry, Figuière has not had the same invasion of catepillars as experienced last year – a good thing!

As for the bats, they are definitely at the property, but not yet in their homes.  When the sun is setting, they are diving for their dinner: mosquitos!  Good to have them around!

Finally – the wild boars.  Know as Sangliers in French, these giant 80-100 kg beasts are just as hungry thanks to the dryness and I witnessed them running circles around Figuière’s fenced-off organic veggie patch.  You can hear them thundering around the brushes not far away, looking for any opportunity to find something tasty.  With vintage coming soon Figuière will have to be extra aware they do not eat the grapes.

     
Photo 1 : Grenache vines not yet in véraison
Photo 2 : soil is still very moist from rains

New Vines at Figuière

During my visit to La Londe-les-Maures this year, there was an energetic buzz of excitement in the air, and very quickly I found out why.

Over the years, Figuière has grown step-by-step to an estate of 80HA, certified organic.

As of the last week, the Estate is thrilled to announce that another 30HA have been purchased.  The new parcel is in the Cotes de Provence appellation, and will be not only used in production for 2019 harvest, but will also be officially declared as the first year for conversion to organic certification.  The property will be fully organic certified in 2022!

This is BIG NEWS to celebrate!  More details will come, but this is a very happy and joyful time for everyone at the Domaine and to share with all Figuière wine fans.

     
Photo 1 & 2: Showing the schiste soil exclusive to the Provence rosé Cru La Londe

Sparkling Soils & Pressing for Finesse

One of the hallmarks that makes Figuière’s wines so unique is their location in La Londe Cru.  Of the 4 Provence Crus, La Londe is the only one that requires schist soils.  The schist is layered almost like books in bookcases.  Magali easily cracked off some fragments that sparkled from the glittering quartz veins in the Provence sun.

For a few years now, Figuière has been the first in Provence to start using a very special press – the Siprem Vacuum Press.  Traditionally used for white grapes, this press uses less pressure than traditional pneumatic presses for a more gentle squeezing cycle on the grapes.

During harvest time, a balloon of inert argon gas is placed above the press to ensure the grapes have no exposure to oxygen to increase the organoleptic profile of the wines.

Photo 1: Figuière’s famous vacuum press

Grand Opening of Figuière’s seasonal restaurant : l’Assiette

Debut of Figuière’s Restaurant : l’Assiette

Of all the many projects that Figuière is currently taking on, one of the most delicious is the debut of their new seasonal restaurant l’Assiette, right at the Domaine!

Run by Chef Sebastien Liegeard, a member of the Combard family, the restaurant features small tapas plates designed to be shared!  Menu ingredients are local and dishes have a regional theme using many of the recipes and flavours particular to the Provence area.  And, Figuière’s estate-produced olive oil is often found on the menu too!

Dining here is a beautiful way to experience food and wine pairing with the entire Figuière wine range!  The restaurant is open for the entire month of August, and then will be back the following 2020 season starting Easter to mid-September next year.  If you are in the area, it is a delightfully authentic dining experience not to be missed.

Views from l’Assiette’s terrace for a private celebration


Presentation of the Figuière range

Figure #1 – Les Expérimentales

Figure #1 – Les Expérimentales

This new wine has been a project in the making for a few years now, and the 2018 vintage is ready to soon be released.  A very small release of 750 magnum bottles will be available of this special artisan series wine.The wine is made of 100% mourvèdre grapes, a short 10-day whole cluster ferment, then moved to 330L barrels to finish fermentation and age for 18 months.  This wine had potential to age easily for 10 years in the cellar.
Tasting: Despite the playful label, the wine is a serious red full of power and complexity.  Served with a slight chill, the wine presents black berry, black currants and black plums on the mouth, with just enough tannin that it could easily hold up to dishes of grilled and BBQ meats.

Pionnière 2018

Pionnière 2018 – Gastronomic rosé

The Figuière Pionnière 2018 is ready for its October debut, just in time for the Fall and important harvest holidays like Thanksgiving!  A blend of 60% Mourvedre and 40% Grenache grapes, this rosé has been aged for 9 months in 2-5 year-old oak barrels.  As the family’s history is from Chablis, applying this same wine ageing technique as the famed Burgundy white wines, was an easy adaptation.
Tasting: Tasting this wine truly blind in a black glass would easily place it among some of the finer oak-aged white wines of the world.  The integration of the wood is incredibly balanced, giving texture to the wine but allowing rich strawberry and white peach fruit flavours to be expressed on the palate.

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