St. Estephe memories brought up to date


A lifetime ago, the small wine merchant I worked for bought a case of 1968 Chateau Calon Segur. A well-known vineyard but in a poor vintage meant that the buying price was low and our selling price reflected this. The wine was excellent and we subsequently sold many cases of this bargain; buying all we could until the suppliers eventually had no more. I think we must have been the only one to take a chance on this chateau’s poor vintage – and it paid off. (We tried another 1968, hoping for similar results , but it was poor).

I must admit a blind spot for clarets, I don’t drink many and am not secure in my knowledge of the areas’ styles. St Estephe is reckoned to be the best value/least refined (?) of the four classic Medoc areas. The wine we tasted was Chateau Lafon-Rochet 1996, a classified fourth growth.

Tried blind, this looked black with a slight brick edge and smelt slightly minty. I declared Syrah and southern French on account of its rustic notes. (I was not having a good evening – see previous notes). It was not particularly refined on the palate, being rather undefined in style. It was a well made wine, structured and with good length but, for me, lacking in any particular memorable character.

[Richard: this wine came from a mixed case, purchased from the WS nearly five years ago. Single bottle price was £39 which strikes me as a bit steep. Quite why they decided to call the case Communing with Claret – apart from the alliteration – I don’t know because these are often tough, austere wines that need food. Not wines to linger over whilst reading Antoine de Saint-Exupéry, or similar. Very little age showing, dark, almost black, decent cabernet nose. I see that at some point I’d written ‘decant’ on the label, advice I didn’t take. A solid, unspectacular wine which could accurately described as ‘classic Bordeaux’ with the caveat that such words are not unreserved praise. Like Geoff, I’m not an expert on the region. Finally, not to embarrass Geoff too much but he completed a spectacular hat-trick later in the evening when he confidently described spiced pork with sweet potato as ‘lamb with aubergines’]


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