The St Estèphe appellation is not rich in classed growth estates; indeed, there are just five such properties in this commune. Only the most hardened label drinker restricts themselves to such rankings though and St Estèphe, with a cornucopia of cru bourgeois estates to choose from, is renowned as a source of good value drinking from beyond the (rather false) boundaries of the 1855 classification. Some of these estate provide not only value for money, but also exceptional quality, matching or indeed beating one or two of the aforementioned quintet of classed growth estates.
Without a doubt one of the highest flyers is Château Phélan-Ségur. For as long as I have known the wines of this property they have presented a classically styled frame, and yet the price tag would never break the bank. In recent years, however, quality has been pushed ever higher, and this estate should now be regarded as one of the top tier properties in this part of the Médoc peninsula.
To find the origins of Château Phélan-Ségur we must look back to the middle of the 18th century when the land here, in the lieu-dit of Garamey, was in the hands of Barthélémy-Joseph de Bastérot (died 1751), a conseiller in the Bordeaux parliament. He had married Yvonne Poitier (born 1709) and records suggest they had perhaps five children. After Barthélémy-Joseph’s passing the estate was bequeathed to their son Gabriel Barthélémy de Bastérot (1716 – 1778), Seigneur de Dignac Le Godet, a successful parliamentarian like his father. Even at this early stage there was a vineyard planted at Garamey, with 25 hectares of vines established and a production of 550 hectolitres per hectare. The estate was also mentioned by Nicolas Dupré de Saint-Maur (1732 – 1791), who held the office of Intendant de Guyenne from 1776 to 1784.
In 1747 Gabriel had married Marie d’Augeard (born 1732), the daughter of Henry d’Augeard (1685 – 1739), Baron de Virazel, who held the office of Président à Mortier of the Bordeaux parliament. Having married well, and clearly enjoying some success, he set about building a residence here, one suitable for a man of his birth and standing. It was erected sometime between 1760 and 1770, although it would subsequently be replaced by a rather grander edifice, that which still stands here today (pictured above).