Friday, 22 January 2016

Phélan Ségur, wine and wine by the glass

Thierry Gardinier and Veronique Dausse, owner and director of Chateau Phélan Ségur, were in town to celebrate the chateau’s 30th anniversary. They hosted a series of events and I was lucky to be invited to the very exclusive lunch at Épure with only five guests.

Thierry briefly talked about the history of the Chateau with a focus on the past 30 years, when his father Xavier Gardinier purchased the property in 1985. In the 90s when Thierry joined his father, it was the time when there were a lot of experiments going on in Bordeaux and when oaked wine was leading the trend. Then from 2000 onward, he started looking for a balance between big fruits and finesse in wine. Thierry admitted that only after 30 years of research and hard work did he finally know what to do with the vineyard and the winery to make the right wine. Today, Phélan Ségur is not making overripe or over-oaked wine, but elegant wine supported by fruits and a fine structure. We tasted three vintages over lunch, 2009, 2005 and 1990 - the three best vintages according to Thierry in the past 30 years, and they were certainly not disappointed - balanced and graceful.

Apart from Phélan Ségur, Thierry and his brothers also own a restaurant group Le Taillevent. The brasserie, Les 110 de Taillevent with outlets both in Paris and London, serves 110 wines by the glass ranges from €4 to €40 per glass, and the list includes wines from outside France. ‘Mr Wine’, the wine director of the group Pierre Bérot, offers a choice of four wines in four price brackets to complement each dish. I think this would be a great concept in Hong Kong to encourage consumers to explore different styles of wine at affordable prices. Thierry, however, was reluctant because of the BYO culture in the city but I believe if the restaurant is clearly positioned as a venue to try hundreds of great wine by the glass, customers will not bring their own wine. Granted, the starting price might be HK$80-100 per glass because of the exuberant rent, still I’m sure it would be of much better quality than most house wine or wine by the glass in the market. Les 110 de Taillevent would certainly put pressure on existing restaurants to improve the quality of house wine currently being offered. I was really enthusiastic about this project and I was not alone, other guests were equally excited. I hope one day Thierry would consider opening the brasserie in Hong Kong.

The lunch was a very enjoyable occasion and we were like friends chatting over a nice meal. Veronique has joined Phélan Ségur for five years and she is the right-hand-lady of Thierry managing the operations of the chateau. She first represented Phélan Ségur at the Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair in 2010, where I was introduced to her by Michel Bettane, telling me that their wine was the one to watch. Because of the growing importance of the Asian market, Veronique visited Hong Kong once or twice a year. I admire her energy, her friendliness and down-to-earth character. She even joked about their unwitting experience with the fancy optical grape sorting machine at harvest!

The wine of Phélan Ségur is about enjoyment and sharing with friends, hence Thierry and Veronique make sure that its en primeur price is affordable. This is definitely a good news to all wine lovers.

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