It was late afternoon, one day in 2009, as we trudged up the path towards the complex of buildings at Château Calon-Ségur. We were in the dying days of winter and were looking forward to spring, although our environment gave little clue to that effect; the ambient temperature was low, and all around us the vineyards were heavily waterlogged following a recent deluge. This downpour had created an extensive network of miniature lagoons all across the vineyard, each one lapping at the feet of the vines, the shores that surrounded these diminutive seas a dark, glistening mud-brown. And the vines themselves gave no hint as to the impending season, row after row showing hardly a sign of life. On reflection, given the dreary weather Bordeaux had been experiencing, perhaps their stoical inactivity was in fact rather wise.
We were seven in number, a small party, although with a heavyweight contingent, including one proprietor of a château in Pessac-Léognan, and one British Master of Wine. We were here to taste the wines of Madame Denise Capbern-Gasqueton, onetime redoubtable virago of Château Calon-Ségur. Renowned for turning away interested tasters, regardless of status or breed, we nevertheless anticipated no trouble; after all, we had an appointment, and we were on time for this rendezvous. And so it was with some surprise that on reaching the door to the chai we found it locked, and the area around it to be quite deserted.
Seven once eager and now deflated tasters left, their day devoid of a Calon-Ségur experience beyond this curt rebuttal. Some tried to remain upbeat, the day already rich in vinous Investigating, we soon espied light and movement from behind the shutters of the imposing château (pictured below) that stands adjacent to the cellars, and eventually contact was made with the one within; a whispered conversation through a just-cracked shutter ensued. Tasting had finished some time ago, it seemed. Madame Gasqueton’s staff had been sent home for the day, the chai was locked, the bottles put away, and no, Madame would not be entertaining us herself. You have an appointment? That is of no concern now, tasting has finished. Goodbye.