We at Rosenthal Wine Merchant take great pride in the portfolio of small-grower Bordeaux we’ve assembled over the years. The inception of the company aligns closely with a drastic shift in the region toward modern technology and blockbuster-styled wines, but we have always sought vignerons here who prize balance and classicism over showiness. And it all began with Château Haut-Segottes… In 1980, at the very outset of his importing career, Neal made the acquaintance of Danielle Meunier, proprietor of this nine-hectare estate in the heart of the Saint-Emilion Grand Cru appellation. Diminutive, animated, and endlessly warm, Madame Meunier—joined in recent years by the formidably talented young Florent Caldier—crafts wines of great potency and concentration, but without garish new-oak influence or steroidal over-extraction. Haut-Segottes is unfailingly a mineral-saturated, highly structured Saint-Emilion that demands but massively rewards patience, and we have imported it with glee since the 1977 vintage. Every older bottle summoned forth from the cellar over the years has been revelatory, even in such miserly vintages as 1980—a bottle of which, at the ripe age of 36, dazzled the senses with leather, cherries, and smoke at a team dinner a few years back.
Like its close neighbors Château Cheval Blanc and Château-Figeac, Château Haut-Segottes comprises a notable percentage of Cabernet Franc, which achieves an incredibly noble and layered complexity in these soils of gravel and dark sand. Meunier and Caldier work their nine hectares with great care, employing biannual ploughing, using only copper sulfate and essential oils to fight disease pressure, and harvesting solely by hand. Fermentation takes place via naturally occurring yeasts in massive cement tanks, with a cuvaison of around three weeks depending on vintage character, and the wine spends the rest of its 18-month élévage in oak barrels of which no more than 25% are new. We have just received the 2016 Haut-Segottes, a monumental wine from a vintage that ranks among the greatest of the last few decades—and, for the first time, we’re supplementing our flagship cuvée with the estate’s lovely and silken “second wine”: Clos Petit-Corbin. Danielle and Florent are indeed performing at a lofty level, and it is a treat for us to expand our work here; see below for full details on these recent arrivals.
2016 Clos Petit-Corbin Saint-Emilion Grand Cru
The estate’s second wine provides a supple, beguiling counterpoint to the flagship cuvée’s muscular classicism. Comprised entirely of Merlot—partly from a one-hectare plot in the dark-sand soils of Corbin, and partly from a hectare in Fortin—Clos Petit-Corbin displays the sheer elegance the variety can achieve in this appellation. Florent and Danielle employ no new wood here, and a small portion of the wine remains in tank during the élévage, thereby further emphasizing its purity and drinkability. What strikes the drinker about this wine is its sense of grace: this is not Merlot forced into some caricature of voluptuousness or gym-pumped into an awkward imitation of Cabernet; rather, it revels comfortably in its lip-smacking red-fruited prettiness. It’s the kind of wine that can only be produced here, and only by growers who are able to fully trust noble Merlot to be its truest self.
2016 Château Haut-Segottes Saint-Emilion Grand Cru
The estate’s flagship cuvée is a study in the marriage of two varieties whose quite divergent characters make for a complex, complete whole. Haut-Segottes comprises over 50% Cabernet Franc—a proportion high for the appellation, yet similar to that used by no less than their close neighbor, Château Cheval Blanc—and the variety’s spicy, acid-driven, tannic tenacity tangoes rivetingly with the Merlot’s seductive plushness. This preponderance of Cabernet Franc, however, results in a wine of significant structure and dramatic longevity. Although Haut-Segottes always displays impressive ripeness and depth, a sense of energy pulses through it no matter how rich the vintage; furthermore, one always senses a trace of herbal spice in its aromatics—a testament to the estate’s refusal to mask true varietal and terroir expression in the name of the oft-worshipped ultraripe. This 2016 is neutron-star dense at this young age, though it displays the vivacity and tension of the vintage at its best, and it’s by no means overwhelming. Notes of gravel, fresh cedar, and black fruits swarm from the glass, announcing their place of origin with force, and the palate is mouthwateringly energetic despite its currently imposing structure. It’s a future masterpiece. 25% new oak.
2015 Château Haut-Segottes Saint-Emilion Grand Cru
From a justifiably much-praised vintage, the 2015 is another powerfully structured offering, though its sheer volume of fruit does a respectable job masking the massive tannins, even after only a few years of age.
2014 Château Haut-Segottes Saint-Emilion Grand Cru
From a cooler, leaner vintage, this 2014 is showing beautifully five years past harvest, with an irresistible streak of mineral-laced classicism wed to pert fruits which are beginning to show a glimmer of savory umami.