Seven vintages from Château Phélan Ségur

chateau This was a tasting of seven vintages of one of St-Estèphe’s star properties, Phélan Ségur. Unlike the other main communes of the Médoc, St-Estèphe has no First Growths and indeed, precious few estates that were included at any level in the 1855 classification. Châteaux Montrose and Cos d’Estournel, both Second Growths, are the big names, but the other top estates of the region are either relatively lowly Third and Fourth growths or Crus Bourgeois. But some of those are widely acknowledged to be worthy of Cru Classé status, perhaps most notably Phélan Ségur.

This tasting was arranged by Corney & Barrow Scotland as an adjunct to their winter customer tasting. The world of top red Bordeaux has recently been one of stratospheric pricing, with the first growths nudging £1,000 a bottle in great vintages like 2005 and 2010, and the ‘super seconds’ not that far behind. Wines like Phélan Ségur, with admirable, classic character and the capacity to age for decades, are well worth consideration for drinking and for cellaring. Prices run from a modest £30 or so for recentl vintages, but even the lovely 1990 is still available for under £90.

The wines

Château Phélan Ségur 2009
Gamy, rich and earthy, with concentrated black fruit. Touches of blueberry and cassis. Concentrated palate too – this has lovely structure, weight and texture and promises a fine future. Juicy and elegantly concentrated. 90-91/100. See all stockists on

Château Phélan Ségur 2005
Again deep, charry and gently gamy notes are masculine and bold, and yet there is a hint of floral sophistication too. The palate has depths of fruit, layers of texture and flavour with black berries, creamy chocolate tannins and lovely acidity. 93/100. See all stockists on

Château Phélan Ségur 2003
That little game edge, and a hint of curranty dry concentration. Hints of coffee and meatiness too. Dry, savoury, with ripe, full tannins and a weighty mid palate texture. Delicious, smooth and long. A real success in this tricky vintage. 90-91/100. See all stockists on

Château Phélan Ségur 2001
A faint whiff of that earthy, meaty character. The palate here is foursquare and meatily dense. The tannins have a real grip of this, the fruit struggling to break through, though a spicy note adds lip-tingling tension. Deep and sinewy stuff for drinking over the next few years with food. 89/100. See all stockists on

Château Phélan Ségur 1998
Juicy, ripe, with the abundant black fruit showing through. That signature meatiness, but plush whereas the 2001 is relatively closed. The palate has lovely depth, lovely silky layers of flavour and concentration. Sweet fruit is submerged beneath tannin and juicy acidity in the finish, but it is there. 90/100. See all stockists on

Château Phélan Ségur 1996
The game and earthy quality of this St Estèphe shows through with quite round, robust fruit on top. The effect is very dry, the big, solid, chalky tannins having the upper hand. There are hints of the balsamic fruit sweetness in a long finish. Could be pretty spectacular in a couple of years. 91/100. See all stockists on

Château Phélan Ségur 1990
Again that meaty, gamy, dried blood edge is set against the black fruit. Lovely concentration and intensity. Delicious palate, the sweetness of the fruit adding a gorgeous approachability, but the searing tannin and acid axis reasserting in the finish. terrific stuff. Impeccably balanced between rigour and open approachability, and drinking beautifully. 92/100. See all stockists on

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