We visited the Phelan Sugur property after an already daunting morning of tastings in the Medoc. Pauillac and St Estephe are tough on the enamel but we persisted on to Phelan Segur and arrived just before lunchtime. We maneuvered down the long drive, walked through the expansive, serene grounds and discovered our gracious hosts in their beautiful, sun-filled tasting room.
Proprietor Thierry Gardinier, along with manager Veronique Dausse, met us with a welcoming smile and a generous pour of their lovely 2016. Composed of nearly equal parts cabernet sauvignon and merlot, the modest Cru Bourgeois did not disappoint. Notes of cocoa powder, berries, and, graphite led the aromatics, with flavors of cassis, espresso, and plum. The wine was dark and muscular, with firm tannins and a long finish of currants and minerals. With a futures price of only $42.50, this is a wine St Estephe fans can enjoy while waiting for Cos d’Estrournel and Montrose to evolve.
When asked for comparison, our host replied 2016 was most like 1986. “But,” he said wryly,” we are much better than we were thirty years ago, no?” I loved discussing the unique challenges of the 2016 vintage with our group at lunch. Every person we met had the same general experience, but each had a different story to tell. Music was a common analogy for the wines; I heard the word jazz a number of times. Sarah Kemp of Decanter compared the vintage to “a person hearing Gershwin for the first time.” Most of us highlighted the freshness of the wines, the structure, and the intensity of flavors, especially in the Medoc. It will be exciting to experience their evolution.