Friday, May 2, 2008

Thierry Gardinier and Chateau Phélan-Ségur

Chateau Phelan-Ségur is situated on a gravelly mound in the appellation of Saint-Estèphe near Chateaus Montrose, Bel-Air and Calon-Ségur. The vineyards were purchased in 1805 and 1810 by Irishman Bernard Phelan, and the estate is currently owned by Xavier Gardinier. Xavier operates Phelan-Ségur along with sons Thierry, Stéphane and Laurent, with the assistance of controversial consulting enologist Michel Rolland.

This past Tuesday I had the oppurtunity to taste through a selection of wines from past and present vintages along with Thierry Gardinier. Beginning with the 1996, we then tasted through a selection of vintages culminating with barrel samples of the 2006, 2007, and an early preview of a new project beginning with the 2007 vintage called Feu aux Roses.

Chateau Phelan-Ségur Saint-Estèphe 1996 - This was a very sexy wine...., perfumed, elegant, voluptous, silky. Immensely enjoyable, it is a wonderful thing to taste great Bordeaux with a touch of age on it, this should drink wonderfully for years to come.

Chateau Phelan-Ségur Saint-Estèphe 2000 - From the "big" vintage, this one was a little quixotic, rich, full mouthfeel, some dark fruit flavors up front but not any more forthcoming than that. A bit dead and disappointing. Nothing off, just nothing on either, I suppose it could have been a bad bottle?

Chateau Phelan-Ségur Saint-Estèphe 2004 - Back on form with a much overlooked vintage, the '04 is fresh and vibrant, with primary flavors of cassis, cherry, and cedar underpinned with crisp acidity and fine minerality. Look for this to evolve well over the next 5 years or so and develop into a fabulous drink.

Chateau Phelan-Ségur Saint-Estèphe 2005 - Displaying characteristics of the vintage, this was a strong muscular wine, firm tannic structure and rather young and closed off. Some tobacco like earthiness, maybe a touch of vanilla wrapped around a black fruit core, wait a couple of years and check it out again, I think given time this will be a winner.

Chateau Phelan-Ségur Saint-Estèphe 2006 - This was a barrel sample, still several months away from being bottled but showed well nonetheless. Soft tannins, red fruits, cigar box, floral overtones and a lithe freshness, look for this one to be an early drinker.

Chateau Phelan-Ségur Saint-Estèphe 2007 - Still very young this Phelan-Ségur was deep and inky colored, with very strong tannins that need a bit of softening yet. Overall quality is often hard to judge at this stage though I feel this will be somewhere in between the '04 and '05.

Feu aux Roses 2007 - Named after a boat belonging to original Phelan-Ségur owner Bernard Phelan, this interesting new project appears to be an attempt to challenge the Cult wines of California while retaining a sense of Bordeaux Terroir. Fermented in 500L double barrique with no racking or pumping over, just gentle turning several times daily. A dense mouthfeel coupled with intense dark fruit flavors on top of mouthcoating tannins, this will be a big wine for certain and I would be very interested to taste the fruits of their labor on release. With as minimal a quantity as they are planning to release I may never see this wine again, as the importer said that a total five 6pks will likely be available.

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