A recent blind tasting of 1996 Chateau Calon Segur gave us insight into how this vintage is coming along. This well respected St. Estephe wine is classified as a third growth in the 1855 scheme. It is easily recognizable by the large heart shape on its label which features a red background. Ideal wine for Valentine’s Day.

Those who follow the rather heterogeous reputations of Bordeaux vintages can recognize a common phenomenon: the year that follows a much ballyhooed vintage invariably gets short shifted, regardless of its quality. It’s as though a pool of exuberant enthusiasm (not to mention lots of bucks) has been exhausted and not yet replenished. 2001 and 2006 are such vintages, coming at the heels of the much celebrated 2000 & 2005. With a few exceptions, 2001 & 2006 deserve their inferior reputations. In the 1990’s, ’95 was unquestionably the big, celebrity year. However, as it turned out ’96 was, as we perceived it then, “a close second” in quality to ’95. Thus ’97 took the really bad rep (unjustifiably so; but that’s another pet peeve of mine; maybe another time).

So here we are nearly 15 years later occassionaly sampling these mid ’90’s, since we all feel they are probably too young to open en-masse. And here is this 96 Calon Segur, huge extraction, a combination of pleasantly vegetative and cofee/cocoa aromas, big upfront fruit, complex on the palate, long acid finish and big alcohol. The wine was so big and ripe that no-one in our experienced group of tasters guessed it as Bordeaux. Its ripe, fruit forward characters led some to California, and others to the sunny fields of Southern France in their guesses.

The bottom line was that 96 is now tasting as a “big” year, possibly bigger than 95, and the wines from this vintage are indeed still too young. They can easily go on for several more decades. I have one more bottle of that Calon Segur. I intend to lay it down for at least another 10 years.

Moris Senegor