Château Calon-Ségur has produced a very serious wine in 2012. It shows just how St Estèphe’s best terroirs have actually succeeded in this vintage. The Cabernet Sauvignon, that misfired in so many other districts, was harvested here at thirteen degrees. The Merlot was pushing nearly fifteen. No greenhouses or poly-tunnels to be seen, just an extremely nifty vineyard site doing the magic [along with assiduous vineyard management]. Yes there is considerable tannin and structure in Calon-Ségur, but the tannin is clearly ripe enough and there is plenty of balancing material. There is freshness too that lends appeal.
Even now that it is under new ownership, a visit to Calon-Ségur can’t be much different from one booked at the time of the 1855 classification. Forgive me, but I really need to paint a proper picture here. It gives a clue to the wines as much as the place itself. The rendez-vous correspondence is very clear indeed. Arrival: 9.15am ‘precis!’ No buggering about then. So you get there a fraction early and are politely asked to wait your turn in a neighbouring chais. Magnificent nineteenth century wooden fermenters stare down imperiously. It’s a bit chilly. You check your phone for urgent messages, even though there’s no signal and you’ve switched the roaming function off. Another group join you waiting in the chais. They also twiddle their thumbs and finger their phones. Expectation builds. Wait, suddenly there’s movement. The previous appointment are being ushered out. It’s now 9.15 on the dot. But no, you can’t proceed quite yet. First aproned ladies nip in ahead of you carrying fresh bottles in wire containers and then carry out the empties. Finally, bingo, ‘Allez!’ You’re in! No golf carts to wizz you around. No fashionably lit, air-conditioned tasting rooms to lounge in. Just the wines on a bench, standing on a stone floor and Vincent Millet, Calon’s uncompromising technical director, welcoming you in.
And the wines? They are a bit like the overall experience, old-fashioned, but in the very best sense. What you taste feels pure and unadorned. The wines here rely on the integrity of their fruit and a sense of place to deliver the goods, rather than any eager to please cellar hi-jinks out to fashion a terrific score. There is density and matter here in the wines in 2012. The grand vin felt very fine and serious to me, nicely balanced but with the structure to age. Marquis de Calon felt prettier [with close to 70% Merlot in the blend] but then revealed itself to be pretty dense and structured on the palate too. Château Capbern Gasqueton had freshness alongside blackcurrant tones and a grippy finish. No compromises here either.
Château Calon-Ségur itself was released at a competitive price and can still be purchased for around £440 a case. Looks a good buy to me if you’ve the cash and is apparently cheaper than almost every physically available vintage.
Deep and saturated; quite tight on the nose initially; lots of extract on the palate; real density and pretty structured; this is a very serious, classically styled wine; tight but very dense. Grip and sap but plenty of material. Feels long term and classically styled St Estephe in the very best sense. 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot. 13.6% alc. Tasted at Calon-Ségur April 11, 2013. 91-93+
Marquis de Calon
Deep and dense; quite tight again; some prettiness from the Merlot (69%); dense and structured on the palate; full and big but also pretty tannic. What the hell, this is St Estephe after all! 69% Merlot, 31% Cabernet Sauvignon 14.4% alc. Tasted at Calon-Ségur April 11, 2013. 90-91+
Château Capbern Gasqueton
Deep looking; stone fruits on the nose; some mineral tones; fresh; grippy, stalky Cabernet fruit on the palate; sappy and quite lean in style; bit backward but will doubtless fill out. Chewy finish. 68% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot. Tasted at Calon-Ségur April 11, 2013. 87-89+