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Haut-Ségottes Saint-Emilion 2016: A Happy Marriage of Merlot & Cab Franc

"One of the under-the-radar gems of Saint-Émilion, the 2016 Haut-Segottes is once again terrific."
—Antonio Galloni, Vinous

What is the point of Saint-Émilion?

One standard answer — and it’s not exactly wrong — is that St. Émilion is a softer, rounder, more approachable sibling to the Cabernet Sauvignon-based Bordeaux of the Left Bank.

In Margaux, Pauilliac and the rest of the Medoc, gravel soils and Cabernet come together to make wines with an “iron fist,” in the old cliché; St. Émilion’s sandier, limestone-rich soils work with Merlot to make a lusher, more sensual wine.

There are definitely St. Émilion châteaux that fit that bill. But that standard answer hides as much about St. Émilion as it elucidates. Most obviously, in addition to Merlot the region has lots of Cabernet Franc – including at very top châteaux like Cheval Blanc. And the soils are actually very complex, with some areas that are rich in gravel as well as various clays and oddities like iron.

In fact, traditional St. Émilions have a fascinating structural drive that balances their “sexy” side. And while they no doubt drink well a little younger than comparable Left Bank wines, they also age beautifully.

The 2016 Château Haut-Ségottes is a perfect example. Neal Rosenthal has been importing the wine since the mid-1970s, just five years after its current leader, Mme. Meunier, took over. Those deep roots tell you just about everything you need to know about this artisanal producer. She farms organically, harvests manually, ferments long and slow with natural yeasts in concrete, and ages in mostly old wood.

Most interestingly, Meunier is not afraid of Cabernet Franc. Maybe it’s because one of her vineyards is so close to Cheval Blanc. But whatever the reason, her flagship wine is over 50% Cab Franc even though she has more Merlot planted overall. She also has plenty of gravel soils and some of that iron. 

This all works together to give aromatics of subtle complexity, with floral notes and something earthier that work beautifully with the redder fruit flavors. The palate has similar complexity and a structure that makes the wine perfect for traditional Bordeaux foods like lamb, duck or beef, and that also guarantees a long, long life in the cellar.

This is the kind of wine that reminds us why Bordeaux became the benchmark “fine wine.”

Château Haut-Ségottes Saint-Émilion Grand Cru, 2016 

Galloni loves this wine: "Ripe, sumptuous and expressive, it captures the sexiness of the vintage. Floral and red-toned flavors abound in a pliant, supple Saint-Émilion that will offer considerable pleasure pretty much upon release. The significant presence of Cabernet Franc adds brightness, lift and nuance. Hints of sweet tobacco and rose petal linger. Two thousand sixteen is a very promising vintage for Haut-Segottes."