Château Calon Ségur is a third growth wine located in Bordeaux, and is the most northerly classed growth of the Haut-Medoc. The estate is thought to have got its name from two previous owners, Monseigneur de Calon (Calon being a small boat that was used to ferry timber across the nearby Gironde estuary) & Nicolas-Alexandre de Sugur. The latter of whom estates included Chateau Lafite, Latour and what is now Chateau Mouton-Rothschild, Chateau d’Armaillac and Pontet-Canet. His wines became hugely popular, especially Lafite on the London market of the early 18th century and with Louis XV who gave him the nic-name ‘The Prince of vines’.
Nicolas-Alexandre has been credited with drawing up the boundaries dividing Ch. Lafite and Ch. Mouton-Rothschild recognizing the two distinctive styles that these vineyards produce.
A famous quote from the Marquis de Segur that has influenced the wines label today is ‘I make my wine at Lafite and Latour but my heart is in Calon’.
It is also worth noting that what we know today as Château Montrose was once part of the Calon Segur estate. In 1824 Calon was sold to Etienne Dumoulin whose son Theodore discovered a plot of land on the estate known as Lande de l’Escargo, located south of the Calon vineyards and adjacent to the Gironde river. Seeing the potential of this area he cleared away the heather & scrub that covered it and in by 1815 planting was underway. The estate was subsequently split in two with the Calon vineyards being sold off, a wise move as Montrose was rated above Calon in the 1855 classification of the wines of Bordeaux!
Today the Chateau is run by Helene Capbern-Gasqueton and her daughter Isabelle following the death of their widowed mother/grandmother Denise in 2011, who had taken up the running of the estate in the later part of her life with great success.
Vineyards & Wine making
The vineyards are located in the Saint-Estèphe AOC just northwest of the village of St. Estèphe, measuring around 74 hectares, some of which is walled (very rare in Bordeaux) and breaking down as 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc its neighbours are Chateau le Bosque to the North-West and Chateau to the South.
The topsoil is a mix of brown clay and gravel with sand in some places with a depth of around 5 meters and calcaire de St. Estèphe limestone below. The wines of Saint-Estèphe are usually high in both colour and flavour, well known for their longevity and well suited to hotter vintages and Merlot due to the high levels of water retaining clay in the soils.
Elevage is typically 18 months prior to bottling with around a third of the wine going into new oak barrels. Production is usually around 20,000 cases for the first wine and 3,300 cases of the second wine, Marquis de Calon. Average bottle price (across all vintages) at the time of writing is around £59 excluding tax with the best recent vintages being 2010, 2009, 2008, 2005 and 2000.
The nose shows dry forest floor, wild mushroom with an edge of hoi-sin sauce, dried spice and polished oak mixed with cigar box notes. Very typical of aged Bordeaux and loved by many, it is a very intriguing nose but Medoc wines of this age all seem to share these smells and lose much of the nuance of fruit they have when younger.
Tannins have completely dissipated, acidity left is quite sour with little or no fruit, and any joy left in this wine can be felt only on the mid palate and some mature spice on the length which is almost completely dominated by its acidity.
At 46 years old this wine does show enjoyable notes on the nose and would suit those that like well matured Bordeaux, for me it is too lacking in fruit to be truly enjoyable. 87pts.
1982 – £200 (22/5/12)
A rather intense mix of dried & Chinese spice and tomato vine, field mushrooms but still has some dried fruit but this seems to be waining. Unfortunately one of the bottles (pictured) was not 100%
Unlike the 66′ this still has got some fine grained tannin left and there are black fruits with a smoky edge, however it seems to be lacking in any real depth and complexity that you would hope for in this prized vintage. A reasonable length which is rather chewy, this has much to commend it but due to the hype that surrounds the vintage seems to under deliver. No doubt it would probably be received better if this was a blind tasting and while this is by no way over the hill I don’t think that I’d hold on too long unless you like that aged Bordeaux style, can’t see it getting any better.89pts
£249.60 (Fine & Rare) +12.4% (from 22/05/12)
Hazy and showing its age in the glass, brick red rim but still with a relatively deep ruby core, more opaque than the other 80’s vintages. The nose here belies its age though as the secondary aromas have good intensity but are not pronounced and there are also notes of redcurrant fruit and smoky cigar box intermingles with mushroom & black olive. In the mouth there is good balance, smoky, bitter redcurrant fruit, receding tannins and a touch of acidity leave this feeling relatively fresh in the mouth though lacking on length. Clearly in decline this wine can still give pleasure, more so on the nose than the taste buds, but is holding up well for a wine over 30 years on. 89pts
Acidity slightly overwhelms the dusty tannins on the palate, leaving bitter black fruit and tobacco. Relative persistence on the length which is rather dry and earthy but with some elegance, this will probably benefit some future aging. 85pts
£91.80 (Fine & Rare) +2%
Much lighter in colour than the 82′, brown notes on the rim.
On the nose this is rather more developed than the 82′ and if there is no noticeable fresh fruit, maybe some dried fruits but this is full of mineral rich soil notes, smoky and to use the French way ‘masculine’ in character there is at least a very classy perfume to this wine that speaks of the earth and a rather lovely rose garden. All tannin has dissipated giving this an almost white wine feel, low acidity and very savory, touches of dilute red berry fruit, very light in the mouth and rather too much age on it to suit my palate. 87pts
Clear bright ruby red in colour and very clear. There are some very charming spices on the nose here, cedar, and some very appealing light redcurrant and boysenberry fruit with an elegant intensity, over delivers considering the vintage.Tannins have dissipated but you feel their echo, leaving some very dry red berry fruit with a smoky note to it, a savory but very drinkable wine. 87pts
Never judge a book by it’s cover! Despite the incredibly soiled label this bottle was in perfect condition.
Very different to previous vintages, a bit more austere and harder to coax out, vegetal notes are replaced with a smoky touch and very tightly packed blackcurrant, damson fruit note with very light touch of incense giving it an almost sacrosanct air.
Palate has a lot more heat than previous vintages despite the alcohol only being 12.5% but there is an overall succulence and tightness between the tannin & acidity. Juicy black fruits that linger long on the length, this really is drinking well but needs some time to come out its shell, decant well! 90pts
£78.50 (Fine & Rare) -28.6% (Won best value wine of the tasting)
On the nose this has some great burnt end BBQ notes, sweet and smoky, dark berry fruit, very appealing! Balanced throughout with good acidity though not astringent on the palate, if you like aged Bordeaux then this will be right up your street, bitter but juicy red fruit along with blackcurrant & mint, great balance, incredibly drinkable! 90pts
1990 – £135.60 13/5/13 – Won best wine of the tasting
On the nose there is a majestic concentration of both minerality and fruit. Graphite pencil lead but with a sweetness to it that is dissimilar to the standard aroma. Rich soil notes with violets, crushed dried flowers, chocolate, blackcurrant, blackberry & mulberry fruit.
Great balance across the palate with some very suave tannins and plenty of acidity, starting to show some maturity, spicy redcurrant fruit and rather light in body but with a long lasting length. 94pts
1996 – £80 (13/5/13)
Plenty of smoky red plum fruit on the nose with touches of coffee and mint. Also some black fruits on show here, baked fruit pie and rather right bank in style but with notes of rose petal and truffle. In the mouth there is more noticeable tannin than in the previous vintages and more expressive red fruits this really is rather charming. In the mouth there is good balance across the palate, ripe but lightly bitter red fruit on the tannin, still rather lightweight mouthfeel but with great length in the mouth. 90pts
Great overall balance of tannin & acidity, soft but full black fruit that is fresh and appealing. By far the best drinking wine of the night (the 05′ being far too young and over the top at this point). This really does leave you wanting more and reminded me how much more I prefer claret at between ten and 15 years of age (there are always exceptions though!). 93pts
2000 – £78 (13/5/13)
The nose on the 2000 is rather tight and closed but there is clear potential, this appears to be beautifully tailored. Rich black fruits, liquorice, graphite, damson & tar. In the mouth there is good tension, the fruit leans more towards black berry fruit rather than red and has good spice complexity. Redcurrant fruit dominates the length which is fresh but maybe lacking in intensity. Should benefit from further ageing in bottle 3-5 years. 90pts
2005 – £47.34 (22/5/12)
The nose on this wine stood out a mile, sumptuous, warm and earthy with chocolate & blackberry cake, creamy vanilla icing with desiccated coconut, eucalypt and mint.
The palate is very plump with sweet black, damson fruit plenty of ripe tannin with quite a monstrous structure that should stand up for decades. Already showing good fruit integration this is very different to previous vintages with one of my fellow tasters saying that it tasted more like Pomerol than Saint-Estèphe and she was completely right!
Pomerol is a small appellation on the other side of the Gironde river known as the right bank, the dominant grape there is Merlot and the best estates such as Château Petrus have high levels of clay in the soil, similar to those found at Calon. The 2005 has a much higher percentage of Merlot (40%) that is well suited to the clay, giving this wine a smoother more opulent feel similar to that of Pomerol.
I thought that this was a fantastic wine and although very different to the other vintages and un-classical of the estate, it is already able to give great pleaser. It is probably a bit of a one off though as similar recent vintages (09’ & 10’) have had much higher percentages of Cabernet Sauvignon (90% & 86%) and should bring the estate back in line especially with ex Château Margaux wine maker Vincent Millet at the helm. This is probably a good thing as this wine is not what traditional buyers of this estate would particularly look for and shares more similarities with the best wines coming from countries like Argentina. 96pts
Re-Tasted 13/5/13 +3.5%
A very forward, ripe fruited wine with notes of desiccated coconut and sweet cocking spices, blueberry pie, new world Bordeaux! Soft but full fruited in the mouth with the lively acidity cloaking the tannin well, there are bags of ripe sweet berry fruit here. Approachable already and well stuffed, still with svelte tannins, juicy acidity and taught dark fruits that linger in the mouth this still has a long way to go and does not show any of the classic mineral notes of Calon, the red fruit is very opulent. This is a very different wine to the older vintages on show here and I’d love to jump in a time machine to see how this ages, will it show more of the classic mineral & earthy aromas of Calon as it matures, I truly hope so! 93+pts
Update – In July 2012 the Château was sold to French insurance company Suravenir along with the sister property Château Capbern-Gasqueton (a 35ha cru bourgeois) for a purported £157m. Videlot, a Bordeaux wine group owned by Jean-francois Moueix the administrator of Château Pétrus where a minority share holder in the purchase and the estate looks like it will be staying in French hands along with the current wine maker Vincent Millet. Only time will tell if the sale will have any effect on the finished wine.
All wines are available from Fine + Rare www.frw.co.uk