Hot but not bothered – Phélan Ségur 2003

The vines at Phelan Segur

The vines at Phelan Segur

It’s always interesting to re-taste the wines from Bordeaux’s 2003 heatwave. There was much scaremongering at the time – the wines were flabby, they might fall apart before reaching maturity, they were largely atypical of the region, and so on. How enjoyable then, to taste Thierry Gardinier’s classic, yet accessible St. Estephe, which has happily thwarted all the naysayers.

The vibrant garnet colour is just starting to brown at the rim, but it’s the nose that really gets me excited – Fresh, ripe blackcurrant, cherries or even kirsch, a hint of eucalyptus, and somewhere in the background, just a whiff of the humidor and some toasted oak. And yes, there is a roasted character to it all, reminding us of the scorching temperatures that summer.

The palate is even more impressive, with wonderful purity of fruit and a profound yet earthy stew of blackcurrants, plums and dark chocolate. It’s well balanced, with refreshing acidity (so rare in this vintage), and an attractively chewy texture – this is a wine with serious backbone, yet the tannins are fine grained and entirely approachable. If there’s any disappointment, it’s only that you want it to last a mite longer, but I can forgive the merely moderate length, given how much pleasure there is along the way.

Talking about “value” is always difficult in Bordeaux – there must be few other regions where connoisseurs talk of £30 bottles as being “good everyday drinking” – but this wine offers complexity, balance and an authentic interpretation of both commune and vintage for not much over £20. I would happily drink this on its own (those tannins are a meal in themselves), but for the more faint-hearted, grilled venison or lamb cutlets would be the perfect foil. And whilst there’s no need to wait to enjoy this wine, I’d certainly chance another 5 years in the cellar before drinking up.

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    • Simon Woolf

      When I originally tasted this wine, I’d only popped the cork minutes beforehand, barely giving it a chance to warm up. I went back to the bottle after 24 hours, to find a more overtly jammy quality on the nose, and the fruit even more prominent on the palate. The length had improved, and whilst I wouldn’t say this was long, it certainly held its end up slightly more than my first assessments suggested.