The Savory 1990 Chateau Phélan Ségur

Chateau Phélan Ségur  was founded in the 19th century by Monsieur Bernard Phélan incorporating some land owned by Marquis Ségur.  Bernard Phélan begin assembling property in the early 19th century and by the middle of the century he had the largest wine estate in St-Estèphe.  William Franck lists production in 1845 as 200-250 tonneaux compared to Chateau Meyney at 150-200 tonneaux.  In 1850 Charles Cocks tabulates Ségur et Garamey (Phélan) as the largest producing estate in St Estèphe with 220 tonneaux.  This is followed by Meyney (Luetkins) at 160 tonneaux, Calon (Lestapis) at 140 tonneaux, Le Bosq (De Camiran) 130 tonneaux, and Cos-Destournel (Destournel) at 120 tonneaux.  Bernard’s son Frank built the chateau which is located in the northern portion of  St Estèphe just south of the town of St Estèphe near the Gironde River.  Having no heirs the estate was sold to the Delon family in 1883.  In the October 13, 1884 issue of the Ridley & Co.’s Monthly Wine & Spirit Trade Circular the 1883 vintage of Phélan Ségur was sold at £8 10s compared to Chateau Lynch-Bages at £9, and Chateau Palmer at £13 in the United Kingdom.  In Bordeaux the 1882 vintage sold for 950 Fr per tonneau, the 1893 at 575 Fr per tonneau, and the 1899 at 600 Fr per tonneau.  This may be compared to Chateau Kirwan at 1,800 Fr, 1,800 Fr, and 1,025 Fr per tonneau.

In the 20th century the estate was run by Roger Delon and his son Guy.  Roger was the uncle of Michel Delon at Leoville-Lascases.  After the death of Roger Delon in 1984 the estate was put up for sale by Guy in 1986.  Xavier Gardinier, who was then head of Champagne Lanson, put in an offer within three days.  The first years of ownership were wrought with problems.  Customers complained about the 1983 vintage which turned out to be tainted by an insecticide.  This vintage was recalled in 1987 but the 1984 and 1985  vintages were tainted as well thus never released.  The Gardinier’s set about improving the estate.   They introduced the second wine Frank Ségur in 1986.  Yields were lowered by green-harvesting and a sorting table was introduced in 1987.  Though a new cuvier had been installed in 1977 the winery was rebuilt in 1988.  For the 1990 vintage the fruit was sourced from three parcels: eight hectares located near the chateau, a majority from some 40 hectares near Chateau Montrose, and 25 hectares near Chateau Calon-Ségur.  This puts the parcels on small gravelly hills with subsoils of clay.  The average age of the vines was just over 20 years with the maximum age just over 60.  In my mind this was a lovely example of a maturing Bordeaux which I wish my basement was full of.  The efforts of the Gardinier family clearly paid off with this vintage.  It actually took over three hours to open up, at which point it smelled and drank beautifully.  I suspect this will reach peak drinking over the next several years.  There were no signs of bad storage nor defects.  This wine was purchased at MacArthur Beverages.


1990 Chateau Phélan Ségur, Saint-Estèphe –
Imported by Luke’s Distributing Co.  This wine is a blend of 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, and 15% Cabernet Franc.  It was aged 13-15 months in 50% new French oak.  Alcohol 13%.  The color was a light to medium garnet with bricking towards the edge.  The light to medium strength nose was of red fruit and a little bit of dark, coffee roast.  In the mouth there was minerally red fruit supported by acidity at first.  The flavors then became blacker and dry with determined fruit.  It was a touch salty, not quite hard in aspect, maturing with riper, black acidity and spice.  There were sweet spices in the aftertaste and some earth and wood smoke as well.  With air this wine became savory, put on a little weight, and had drier flavors.  The structure is still there with cinnamon spiced tannins coming out.  ***(*) Now-2023+.


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