Theses wines are not cheap but they represent good value

I return to Bordeaux again this week after a fascinating recent vertical tasting and also because the wine world is full of talk of the potential of the 2016 vintage thanks to the recent en-primeur tastings.

Lynne Coyle MW of O’Briens Wines believes 2016 is a left-bank year with the wines St Émilion more varied. In the Médoc she found very good consistency in St-Julien, Saint-Estephe and in Margaux.

In the Médoc she found very good consistency in St-Julien, Saint-Estephe and in Margaux.

Saint-Estephe is the most northerly of the great Médoc appellations and the one that produces the most wine. Wines here are traditionally firmer than elsewhere in the Médoc and names you may know include Cos d’Estournel, Montrose, Calon-Ségur and Phélan Ségur. 

Wines here are traditionally firmer than elsewhere in the Médoc and names you may know include Cos d’Estournel, Montrose, Calon-Ségur and Phélan Ségur. 

Unlike the afore-mentioned, Phélan was not classified in the infamous 1855 list so the wine is less expensive for the quality (although no top Bordeaux wine could be considered inexpensive these days).

Phélan Ségur was founded by Bernard Phélan from Co Tipperary in the late 18th century on land purchased from the Marquis de Ségur — sadly the last of the Phélans was killed in the first world war. 

The current owners are the Gardiner family (who also own Restaurant Taillevant in Paris) and in their hands the chateau has jumped further in quality.

At 70 hectares this is a good-sized estate and I have never been disappointed by the wine — and I’ve been buying it since around 1993. 

That first bottle cost me €16.40 in O’Briens Donnybrook and in 1994 I spent a week’s holidays in the village of Saint-Estephe looking out at the chateau every day, alas I was too shy to knock on the door.

The charming Véronique Dausse (director of the chateau) talked us through the 2006, 08, 09, 10, 11, 12 and 14 vintages plus a barrel sample of the 2016 which had lovely purple fleshy fruits. 

All the wines had charm and intensity with the 2010 probably the highlight thanks to its poise with the fruit, acidity and structure all in harmony and promising a long life ahead. 

The 2009 I write about below but I also liked the cedar, pencil and blackcurrant 2008, the chocolate-tinged 2011 and the elegant and pure 2006 and 2014. 

These wines are not cheap but given the company they keep they arguably represent good value.

BEST VALUE UNDER €15

Hebrard AOP Bordeaux 2014, France — €11.95

Stockist: Molloys Liquor Stores www.molloys.ie 

This is on special offer in Molloys at the moment with a €4 reduction. 

A blend of 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Sauvignon and made in a fruit forward attractive style with bright soft fruits, juicy textured fruit on the palate and a tangy chewy black-currant skin finish.

Grand Plessis Médoc 2015, Bordeaux — €15

Stockist: Marks & Spencer

The Médoc is the peninsula of mainly reclaimed land that juts up to the north west of the city of Bordeaux. This is largely Cabernet country and the name Médoc has acquired some cachet so is rarely cheap. 

This is bright and fruity and although still quite young has good yielding fruits and a spicy hint on the finish.

Gastronomy Gascogne IGP, South-West France — €7.99

Stockist: Aldi

This is one of a range of new inexpensive French wines in Aldi given the general title ‘Pardon My French’. 

I’ve always had a soft spot for the light crisp whites of Gascony (since that trip to France in 1994). This has fresh green apple and pear aromas, tastes crisp and clean with a lingering citrus tang.

BEST VALUE OVER €15

Frank Phélan 2012, Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux — €27.95

Stockist: O’Briens www.wine.ie 

The second wine of Phélan-Ségur, first created in 1986 and named after the son of the founder of the Chateau Bearnard Phélan. 

Made from younger vines on the estate and one 15ha plot of older vines, this is drinking remarkably well given its youth — solid blackcurrant fruit aromas, ripe supple fruits and a lingering black fruit finish.

Chateau Laffitte Carcasset 2014, Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux — €19.99

Stockist: Selected Lidl stores nationwide

This is one of those Lidl special offer wines that suddenly appear from time to time. The estate is a Cru Bourgeois but a couple of steps down from Phélan-Ségur. 

Black fruit and cedar-tinged fruit aromas, ripe and solid on the palate with good concentration but a little unyielding. Well worth snapping up; perhaps age it or decant for an hour before serving.

Chateau Phélan-Ségur 2009, Saint-Estephe, Bordeaux — €95

Stockist: O’Briens www.wine.ie 

After a few difficult vintages 2009 was the first to be hailed consistently throughout the region (and of course prices jumped). 

2009 was a very ripe year and this shows in the Phélan which is sweet and rich on the nose, opulent and chocolatey on the palate with a ripe textured finish. Not cheap but this should last decades.


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