Clos des Figuiers
AOC Côtes de Duras
This region has always been regarded as ‘the hinterland of Bordeaux’: the soil is very similar to St Emilion or the Entre-Deux-Mers area yet, being that much further from the ocean, the climate is drier and warmer with a greater distinction between daytime and night-time temperatures and this is a distinct advantage for the Duras folk, especially for the production of their strikingly aromatic dry white wines.
A delightfully picturesque tapestry of rolling wooded hillsides and varied agriculture has proven an irresistible draw to holidaymakers for decades, and now with the revived energy of the area’s winemakers we are going to be hearing much more from this quiet corner of the world.
Clos des Figuiers is a tiny estate which tells the story of one woman’s quest. Marie-Christine Morin is a native of nearby Bergerac with no previous connection with winemaking, a single mother who was keen to break away from a dull urban life and to achieve something of note. By chance she was close friends with the wife of one of Bordeaux’s most famous consulting oenologists, Stéphane Derenoncourt. The master agreed to take her under his tutelage for a year, to learn to tend vines and make wine, and in no time at all she was hooked. She set about looking for a small vineyard that she could take on by herself and after some time of searching, she discovered Clos des Figuiers. An elderly retired vigneron had begun to uproot his dozen hectares of red and white grapes when Marie-Christine and Derenoncourt came across the property, and after much insistence, she convinced the owner to sell them to her.
The vineyard now counts just 2.5 hectares of vines in three parcels, which are 15 years old on average, and the soil is some of the finest clay-limestone tuffe in the appellation lying on gentle, well-drained slopes that face southwest, topped with oak woods, all of which is perfect for growing vines. The soils are made up of ancient sea fossils, and at the top of the slopes the earth crumbles in the hand to an almost sandy lightness. Here the purest and most elegant fruit is harvested.
Marie-Christine Morin’s aim is to create the purest possible expression of terroir and vine, borne out by the simplicity of her choice of materials and practices, all based very much on what she learned from Derenoncourt, who now accompanies her as consultant winemaker. To this end Clos des Figuiers produces a single white wine from 100% Sauvignon Blanc and a single red wine from 100% Merlot grapes, grown with minimum treatments and intervention, harvested by hand and aged in barrels that have already made one wine so whose influence in flavour terms is virtually indiscernible.
The white is hand-harvested into cagettes (shallow trays) to protect the fruit and is sorted manually in the winery, where it is then put into tank for 24 hours for the débourbage (settling the solids). The following day the fruit is transferred carefully into the one year-old barrels and fermentation begins using natural yeasts, after which the wine is aged on the lees for 6 months, with gentle batonnage (lees stirring).
The red is also hand-harvested into cagettes, de-stemmed and sorted on arrival, then put into cement tanks for the alcoholic fermentation. It undergoes remontage (pumping over) and pigeage (punching down) during the fermentation process then is transferred into similar one year-old barrels for the malolactic fermentation, after which it is aged for 18 months.