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2020 - A fondamental vintage

An early start to spring

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After record winter rainfall: 848mm fell from October 2019 to end March 2020 (compared with an average of 540mm over 26 years), we saw a very mild end to the winter. In mid-February, we could see a procession of cranes migrating northwards.

At the beginning of March, between storms, we used willow reeds to tie off our old Cabernet Sauvignon in l’Enclos, and our Chef cooked us the first asparagus of the season.

 

Spring 2020 saw the entire country go into lockdown.
A very stressful period for the whole team, but everyone’s commitment and loyalty allowed activity to continue in the vineyard and the cellar.
While most of the team was at work, some employees were in self-isolation. We had to reorganise the company accordingly. The vineyard team continued to take care of the vines, as mild weather alternated with storms (sucker removal, sprays, etc.). In the cellar, we hurried to return the 2018 vintage to tank, with fears that there might be problems obtaining supplies for bottling.

Our Chef and Housekeeper got to work in the vineyard and in the cellar to give support to their colleagues.

An unreal time also marked by dreamlike weather: we were living through a real summer during this lockdown. The weather in spring was very mild, with above-average temperatures of 2.7°C for the first half of April and 3.1°C for the second half of May.

On the day lockdown ended, as if by magic, we saw the first flowers on the Cabernet Sauvignon from the top of Font-Petite. The vines were more than two weeks early, a lead that was to continue until the harvest.

 

This spring was also marked by a race against time to protect our vines from downy mildew and keep the weeds under control. Not using herbicides, we could not get into the waterlogged vineyard to protect our soils: we were overtaken, and this for several weeks.

After the rain, drought - After record levels of rainfall between October 2019 and June 2020: 1120mm (compared with 735mm on average over the past 26 years), we saw barely a drop of rain between 20 June and 10 August (5mm).

We worried about the possible blockage of grape ripening due to water stress. The foliage began to turn yellow, and berries suffered
from sunburn in some plots (berries that would later be removed thanks to optical sorting). We therefore had to modulate our work
(leaf removal, tillage, trimming height) depending on the plot, the terroir and the age of the vines, to limit the effects of this water stress.

Luckily, 106mm of rain fell on our vineyard between 11 and 20 August. Within just a few days, the vines and nature were refreshed. At the end of August, our vines were strikingly beautiful. The marathon runners, who normally cross our park in early September with its lawns brown and brittle, would have benefited from a lush green carpet this year, had the Médoc Marathon not been cancelled.

 

Harvest time

Nights are fresh, winds drying and the days are hot and sunny. Early September saw ideal conditions for the polyphenolic ripening of our grapes. The vineyard was working well, with the grapes in a good state of health. Our Merlot are very fine and tasty, with great substance. The Cabernet Sauvignon, usually late-comers, promised to be of very similar quality, especially on our Houissant terroir.

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Kick-off on 16 September, for a 16-day harvest!

Harvest ended on October 1 , without interruption between Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Petit Verdot and

Cabernet Franc were picked in between.

(Note: 2019 harvest: 24/09 - 10/10 and 2018 harvest: 24/09 - 11/10)

 

Under a magnificent blue and warm sky, we launched the start of picking, in a very stressful atmosphere. Organisation is almost military with three small teams of pickers. Everyone complied graciously with the procedures in place.

These first days of harvest (16 and 17 September) were marked by very hot weather: even the longest-serving members of the team were surprised. We stopped picking early on Thursday 17 September when the thermometer reached 35°C. The heat calmed down over the following days, giving way to dreamlike weather.

We noted reduced yields: 10% below the average over the past 5 years. The reasons: the drought, sunburn and the flowering conditions. We’ve come out of it well.

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And at that moment, the magic took place. The vat room and the cellar insulated us from the world and its misfortunes. It was almost unreal, as if it were only the wine that mattered; it made us forget everything. We devoted ourselves to the vinification. We started with our Merlot that were superb right from day one, then, our deep and structured Cabernet Sauvignon, our Cabernet Franc of great elegance, and our first Petit Verdot with their enchanting aromas. The skins were thick, but the fermentations went well. We were vigilant and went easy on the extraction, which was quick this year. It was only when the batches went into barrel that a welcome calm ensued.

 

The most fundamental of Phélan Ségur vintages

It was with delight that in February we immersed ourselves in the fine-tuning exercise that is blending, and this with a close-knit team who know each other very well: Luc Peyronnet for the vineyard, Fabrice Bacquey in the cellar, Michel Rolland, Julien Viaud and myself.

And there you have it, this 2020 was born, as if nothing had happened. it is the most fundamental vintage from Château Phélan Ségur. A real pleasure to see the result of years of work transcending a great terroir: it is Château Phélan Ségur’s essence. And although this quest is never- ending, I have the feeling that we have reached a high point in our search for precision, complexity, depth, purity. Philippe Van de Vyvere talks about of the search for excellence.

2020 is the first vintage of Château Phélan Ségur to be made up of four grape varieties, with the arrival of our Petit Verdot planted in 2013.
No contrivance, no excess. 
A fascinating balance, a remarkable class and upmost refinement.

Its expressive nose of remarkable freshness is an invitation to plunge into a multicoloured and “polyphonic” world of fruit and flowers. It is perfectly balanced, with a precise and finely sculpted structure. Subtly fleshy, it is dense and its tannins finely woven. Its power, its length give it a radiant energy and arouse astonishing emotions.

 

Phélan Ségur sale confirmed

Today, the Gardiniers have confirmed that they intend to sell the property: “For greater coherence between our various business activities, we have decided to devote our future investments to fine foods trades (restaurants, distribution, etc) and high-end business. Taillevent Paris, Domaine Les Crayères and Le Comptoir du Caviar will benefit the most from this approach, through plans that have already been defined.”

The new owner of Phélan Ségur is Philippe Van de Vyvere, a Belgian shipping entrepreneur and owner of SeaInvest. He said: “My grandfather, a devoted connoisseur and collector of Bordeaux wines, first introduced me to this world when I was quite young, and I’ve carried on that family tradition ever since. I have several friends who own wineries in the Bordelais, and my dream of one day owning a beautiful property myself came true when I met the Gardinier family.

“I fell in love with the Château Phélan Ségur, that magnificent estate overlooking the Gironde. I spoke many times with the Gardinier brothers, making sure they understood that I was a buyer who would respect the estate’s venerable history and who was determined to carry on the excellent work done thus far. My intention is to ensure that Phélan Ségur remains one of the great wines of the Saint Estèphe AOC.”

 

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History

It wasn't mere chance that led Bernard Phelan, a young Irish wine broker, to leave his homeland at the end of the 18th century and settle in Bordeaux. At that time, the city was a major trading centre with the British Isles. The families that did business together, buying and selling the wines produced in the region, formed close ties. These relationships sometimes let to marriages, and notably that of Bernard Phelan to one of the daughters of Daniel Guestier, a well-known merchant in the market. With the benefit of his father-inlaw's experience, he was able to start thinking about making his own wines.

In order to do this, he acquired le Cos de Garamey, located in Saint-Estéphe, in 1805, followed in 1810 by the Ségur de Cabanac estate to complement his wine-producing domain that remains practically unchanged today.

 

When he died in 1841, Bernard Phelan left this vast estate, known from then on under the combined name of Château Ségur de Garamey, to his son Frank. The latter, though of Irish stock, was a Médoc man in his heart, and devoted his life to promoting the renown and improving the quality of the wines produced on his property. In addition, he became the mayor of Saint-Estéphe, holding the post for thirty years.

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Vineyards

The vineyard of Château Phélan Ségur covers 70 hectares of magnificent clay-gravels on the hillocks and plateaux of Saint-Estèphe.

Made up of four large sections, the parcels adjoin the vineyards of Châteaux Montrose and Calon Ségur, among others. The planting density is high. The mix of grape varieties is original: the talented duo of the Médoc (58% Cabernet Sauvignon and 39% Merlot) are complemented by a touch of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot (1.5% of each). Cabernet Sauvignon, the king of Médoc grape varieties, brings incomparable power and structure: it is the backbone of the Grand Vin.

 

Merlot expresses an attractive roundness and unrivalled suppleness. To preserve diversity and bring a hint of spice, Petit Verdot made its entry to the property in 2015. It excels on heavier soils where clay dominates. It is a vigneron’s variety, impetuous and requiring perfect control. Cabernet Franc, which has always had its place at the Château, is a precious asset in the blend, with its finesse and floral notes.

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Winemaking

Fermentation takes place over a dozen days, punctuated by regular pumping over, rack-and-return and punching down, specific to each batch, thus favouring the extraction of phenolic compounds in the wine. Then comes the critical phase of maceration over about twenty days, where the objective is to continue the extraction. The wine is tasted daily to decide the optimum date for running off. The 39 tanks allow for this precision vinification and are the basis for the future selections for blending. Steady development started in 2010 has allowed the addition of 8 tanks of 45 hl to the vat room, further improving the interpretation of the work within parcels that takes place in the vineyard.

 

After pressing and the separation of the free-run and press wines, they are “casked”; now stored in barrels, they can begin their malolactic fermentation in the warm atmosphere of the cellars. The wines take on more suppleness and roundness and rest through the winter.

The long task of blending begins at the end of winter and consists in rigorous tasting of each batch; it is at this stage that the selection is made with the invaluable assistance of Michel Rolland, consultant oenologist. Some batches are chosen to go into the blend for the Grand Vin of Château Phélan Ségur, while others are destined for the second wine Frank Phélan or for La Croix Bonis.

The final blend for the Grand Vin is then presented “to the world” in April during the en primeur tastings.

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Inside information

 Everyone tries hard in the course of their life to find a wide variety of means to express themselves. The acquisition of Phélan Ségur appeared to me to be this means, allowing me to respect the past and the creation of my predecessors and at the same time to put, with modesty, my stamp on this magnificent ‘living object’ whose longevity exceeds, luckily and by nature, the life of a man. »

Xavier Gardinier – March 1985.

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Wine Moments

Here you can see wine moments from tastingbook users.    or    to see wine moments from your world.

 Izak Litwar , Wine Writer (Denmark)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Phelan-Segur . In a tasting of  56 wines 

Bordeaux 2020 Vintage - Château Smith Haut Lafitte 2020- lots of aromatic blackcurrants and black cherries on the nose, powerful on the palate with a strong backbone, big concentration, multilayered and with great length. Long, long finish. Impressive effort. 96-97p.

3m 1d ago

 Markus Del Monego MW , Wine Writer (Germany)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Phelan-Segur . In a tasting of  650 wines 

2020 – the paradox vintage 


2020 began with mild temperatures even breaking temperature record highs at the beginning of February. These conditions led to a premature budbreak. Budding developed unevenly, very much depending on the locations although the coo and humid weather in April had not a very significant impact on slowing down the growth of the vines. Finally all the vines came into bloom at the end of May without any significant coulure or millerandage. At the start of June, frequent rain intensified the pressure of mildew. From mid-June, the weather changed. The whole Bordelais saw a period of very dry weather for two months. However, the earlier accumulation of water reserves prevented water stress. Around July 18 a heat wave began to build up but the cool nighty prevented water stress on the wines again. The veraison started at the end of July and went on till the beginning of August. The heatwave in August accentuated water stress, but shorter rainy episodes avoided a complete block. The dry and sunny weather in September encouraged the grapes maturity and harvest started on September 10 with a rather mild weather. Towards the middle of September, rain prevented the fruits from wilting but as its frequency was quite concerning, the haves was pushed forward. "Le diabolique" is the title given to this vintage by Véronique Sanders. It is a very special French word, which is not correctly translated with “diabolic” in English. In France, the expression means to overcome the devil. And the vintners succeeded. 2020 is clearly a vintner’s vintage which asked a permanent reinvention of the wineries, struggling hard with this difficult vintage. However, the vintage surprises with excellent wines, exemplary freshness and elegance and very dense structure. In former times it was said that the vine has to suffer to make exquisite wines, in this vintage the people have suffered to make a great wine. The first part of notes for this tasting with over 800 wines you will find today. More notes will follow over the coming days.

4m 11d ago

 Izak Litwar , Wine Writer (Denmark)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Phelan-Segur . In a tasting of  100 wines 

I'll repeat myself with the phrase, "Pomerol is one of the strongest districts in 2018"! The truth is that it's s an accurate and valid statement. Despite not tasting Petrus and Lafleur, to name some of the big hitters, I can assure, that there is enough exceptional goof for every taste from Pomerol. As everywhere in Bordeaux, there also are very few wines under the usual standard in Pomerol.


 

6m 18d ago

 Jeb Dunnuck, Wine Writer (United States)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Phelan-Segur . In a tasting of  24 wines 

Gaja Sori Tildin 2017 / Coming from a warmer, south-facing site, the 2016 Barbaresco Sori Tildin is a more concentrated, vibrant wine compared to the straight Barbaresco and has vivid notes of bright cherry fruits, rose petals, road tar, violets and even a hint of orange blossom. Incredible on the palate, with medium to full body, an incredible, seamless texture, ultra-fine tannins, and a monster finish. The tannins here are unquestionably on another level and are perfectly ripe, and this just about off-the-charts 2016 has a Grand Cru Red Burgundy-like texture, elegance, and stature. This bottle didn't hit prime time until the second day, so either give bottles a healthy decant or, even better, 5-7 years in a cold cellar.

7m 13d ago

 Izak Litwar , Wine Writer (Denmark)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Phelan-Segur . In a tasting of  50 wines 

BORDEAUX 2019 / Ch. Margaux 2019 - only 37% of the whole production into Grand Vin. 90% Cabernet Sauvignon + 7% Merlot + 2% Cabernet Franc + 1% Petit Verdot, 14.9% alcohol. Ch. Margaux' technical director, Philippe Bascaules, told me, that Merlot needed to be vinified gently due to its voluptuousness and high alcohol. He made a comparison between 2018 and 2019 Grand Vin - "when I taste 2018 Ch. Margaux, I taste 2018 vintage first, then Ch. Margaux. When I taste 2019 Ch. Margaux, it's Ch.  Margaux first, then 2019 vintage!"
It's a showcase of Cabernet Sauvignon with wonderful aromas of cigar box and tobacco leaves. Extremely elegant and multi-faceted, sophisticated and very stylish for the property. Exceptional complexity and purity. Liquid silk. True perfection here! 99-100p. 

1y 2m ago

 Markus Del Monego MW , Wine Writer (Germany)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Phelan-Segur . In a tasting of  87 wines 

On April 6, 2020 over 90 samples from Bordeaux were arriving. This huge selection was allowing a more deeper insight into the 2019's qualities. The tasting showed for Lalande de Pomerol overall ripe qualities with silky tannins. Fronsac was comparable to 2018 however with more freshness. The wines from Saint-Emilion displayed wines with very firm tannins. The Bordeaux and Bordeaux Supérieur appellation where various in style.

1y 5m ago

 Christer Byklum , Wine Writer (Norway)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Phelan-Segur . In a tasting of  51 wines 

1998 Château Cheval Blanc; Ruby, pink rim, floral, violets, mint, layered, again impossible to describe fully. Close to perfect balance, playfull and stil relaxed acidity. tannins soft, stunning texture, mouthwatering, just ads and ads with air, incredible length, never ending, I keep raising the score on this as it keeps unlocking more and more secrets. I wish I had cases of this one. 98


Served blind, I was sure it was Petrus, as was most of the table. Wine of the evening!

1y 6m ago

 Karen Wilkinson, Wine Importer (United Kingdom)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Phelan-Segur . In a tasting of  8 wines 

Château Lafleur 2012 / Ripe, pure and harmonious with dark fruit and toasted notes. Opulent mid-palate fruit and finely honed tannins. Builds to a long, persistent finish.

2y 2m ago

 Markus Del Monego MW , Wine Writer (Germany)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Phelan-Segur . In a tasting of  100 wines 

Bordeaux 2018 - TOP 100 Wines. "The best vintage of my live" says Christian Moueix of the Ets. Jean Pierre Moueix in Libourne. In fact, 2018 is a vintage with wonderfully ripe tannins which taste almost sweet and are characterizing wine with excellent structured. However this vintage was everything else than easy-going. The first six months of the year saw the complete annual rainfall for the Bordeaux region, over 800mm. Mildew attacked the grapes, what meant a reduction in quantity but as the leaves have not been attacked the maturity process continued and the lower yields brought concentrated grapes. Another problem where hailstorms bringing further damage. Some Châteaux like Château Guiraud have lost the complete harvest. "We went from hell to heaven" summarizes Véronique Sanders from Château Haut-Bailly in Pessac-Léognan the vintage. After the deluge in the first half of 2018, there was a dramatic change for the second half bringing great, dry weather with a lot of sun. The partially high daily temperatures were in change with lower night temperatures and created a tension for aromatic wines. The correct amount of extraction and maceration was crucial and some vintners have changed their maceration processes and made great wines with a lot of freshness. These vintners are amongst the winners of the vintage. If 2018 will belong to the greatest vintages in Bordeaux for the overall production might show the future. However already today there is a number of Châteaux performing 

2y 5m ago

 Sho-Chieh Tsiang / Sommelier, Pro (China)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Phelan-Segur . In a tasting of  15 wines 

Château Lafleur 2009 / 99 points / Intense both in colour and on the nose, with characteristic aromas of smoke, liquorice, truffles and autumn fruits. A great achievement for this vintage, well-rounded and rich with lively acidity. The finish is long, pure and elegant with hints of dark chocolate, blackberries and cassis.

2y 9m ago

 Christer Byklum , Wine Writer (Norway)  tasted  1 wines  from  Château Phelan-Segur . In a tasting of  111 wines 

2008 Blain-Gagnard Le Montrachet, tasted blind. It needed hours to open up, it started out quite yellow fruity with playful minerality below. After three hours it became far more nuanced, layers of citrus, minerals, apples, floral notes and the balance of this wine was out of this world. Minutes of aftertaste. I thought it was Domaine d’Auvenay Chevalier-Montrachet. 98p

3y 1m ago

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