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The wines of Château Phélan Ségur, Cru Bourgeois St.-Estèphe, Bordeaux

33180 Saint-Estèphe, France Tel: +33 (0)5 56 59 74 00

This previously underperforming property was taken over in 1985 by the Gardinier family and, according to Le Classement of Bettane and Desseauve, ever since 1988 the quality of the wines has been on the upturn. The fruits of the Gardinier quality-minded approach was certainly evidenced by the wines on show, and in particular the stunning 1996. The wines are also fairly priced when compared with most Bordeaux these days, although they are not cheap (the 1996 is selling for around £19 in the UK). I asked Thierry Gardinier what he thought the role of terroir was in producing his wines. He explained that he thought it was a crucial element of quality wine production: the influence of the soils, climate and rootstock can be seen in the difference between the taste of the different batches of wine produced from separate parts of the property. Overall, some 180 000 bottles of the Grand vin are produced each year, and the typical cépage is 55% Cabernet and 35% Merlot.

Château Phélan Ségur 1996
Deeply coloured, with a rich, complex nose. On the palate sheer power (there is currently huge tannic structure) is combined with ripe fruit. It is herby, complex and exotic. Very good. It will be interesting to see how this one ages.

Château Phélan Ségur 1995
Slightly lighter in colour than the 1996, and with a less expressive nose. It is more herby in character and less concentrated and generous on the palate. Disappointing in comparison with the 1996, but OK.

Château Phélan Ségur 1994
Again, lighter on the nose than the 1996. Herby and cedary on the palate, but a little tannic and hard at present. This may well age nicely: it could well be closed, so I won't be too hard on it. Good.

Château Phélan Ségur 1993
Lovely open nose of herbs and cedar. On the palate, quite light, but now really drinking well although with appropriate structure. Although this a lighter style, it is probably the most expressive for current drinking. Good.

Frank Phélan 1997
Good colour. Rich and pleasant, with nice structure. Nothing special, but nice for a second wine.

Frank Phélan 1996
Similar in character to the 1996 Grand vin, but lacking just a little of the density. Tannic and young still, this will benefit from cellaring, and if the price is right, it may well be worth buying for drinking in the short to medium term. Good.

(Tasted November 1999)