Frank Phélan 2015 - A.O.C Saint-Estèphe
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It was not by chance that Bernard O’Phelan (1770-1841), a young Irish wine merchant, left his native town of Tipperary at the end of the 18th century to set himself up in Bordeaux. The town at this time was an important trading hub with the British Isles. Close relations were built up between the families that bought and sold the wines of the region from one another. These links were such that they led to alliances and even marriages, in particular that of Bernard Phélan with one of the daughters of Daniel Guestier, a well-known merchant in the Bordeaux wine market. Helped by the experience of his father-in-law, he could now envisage producing his own wines.

In 1805, he acquired Clos de Garramey, situated in Saint-Estèphe, then in 1810 Ségur de Cabanac estate.

On the death of Bernard in 1841, this vast estate, whose combined name was Château Ségur de Garramey, was passed on to his son Frank (1820-1883). The latter, a médocain at heart even though a true Irishman, was to consecrate his life to improving still further the fame and quality of the property’s wines. Moreover, he became mayor of Saint-Estèphe and remained in that post for thirty years. He advanced within the Irish community in Bordeaux, which included among others the Johnston, Barton, Clarke and Lynch families.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Château Ségur de Garramey took on its modern name of Château Phélan Ségur. A name synonymous with classic and noble values ​​that subtly combines a sense of innovation and heritage.

« Initiated at a very young age by my grandfather, a great connoisseur and collector of Bordeaux wines, I perpetuate this family tradition. I had a real crush on Château Phélan Ségur, a magnificent estate overlooking the Gironde. »
Philippe Van de Vyvere

The vineyard

An exceptional soil that is looking the river

Made up of four large sections, the parcels adjoin the vineyards of Châteaux Montrose and Calon Ségur, among others. The planting density is high. The mix of grape varieties is original: the talented duo of the Médoc (58% Cabernet Sauvignon and 39% Merlot) are complemented by a touch of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot (1.5% of each). Cabernet Sauvignon, the king of Médoc grape varieties, brings incomparable power and structure: it is the backbone of the Grand Vin.

Merlot expresses an attractive roundness and unrivalled suppleness. To preserve diversity and bring a hint of spice, Petit Verdot made its entry to the property in 2015. It excels on heavier soils where clay dominates. It is a vigneron’s variety, impetuous and requiring perfect control. Cabernet Franc, which has always had its place at the Château, is a precious asset in the blend, with its finesse and floral notes.

The Médoc, characterised by the mild temperate maritime climate, offers ideal conditions of a seasonal cycle that is sufficiently marked to accompany the annual growth of the vine and mild enough to attenuate climatic excesses. The vines at Château Phélan Ségur are close to the estuary: this situation protects them from hard winters and summers that are sometimes very hot.

The complexity of the terroir of Saint-Estèphe, of which Château Phélan Ségur is a perfect illustration. It is made up of a thick layer of gravel deposited by the river, a few hundred thousand years ago. The pebbles and above all the gravels coated with clay sands (clay gravels) shape the rolling landscape of a large part of Saint-Estèphe.

Work in the vines

Luc Peyronnet, vineyard manager, interprets this distinguished terroir with the greatest integrity: over the years, he has implemented integrated viticulture which takes into account the environment and working conditions.

He studies the sub-soils, adapts the grape varieties and root stocks in consequence, and plays on the different exposures. This is a craftsman who loves his work, and looks over the blossoming of the young wines and the good health of oldest, which are so precious.

Respect for the soil is a daily preoccupation. The vineyards are ploughed, almost removing the need for herbicides. Others are grassed, on the other hand, which allows for less leaching and better control of vigour. The manuring of the soil is usually organic. The biodiversity is preserved.

Preventive measures have been developed to reduce the use of phytosanitary products: the pruning method has allowed overcrowding of bunches to be avoided, upkeep of the trellis has allowed for optimisation of the canopy, leaf removal has been mastered.

Deep empirical knowledge of each parcel allows recourse with total peace of mind to progress in agronomy and high-technology resources. The meteorological data, the development of modelling of diseases and pests, and the monitoring of the vigour of each parcel have resulted in a marked reduction in inputs. From the 1990s, biotechnical control respectful of the environment has been applied (sexual confusion), excluding the use of pesticides and favouring protection of the fauna. The population of natural predators is preserved from the pests of the vine. In parallel, water consumption is managed rigorously and effluent is reprocessed.

The grapes are harvested manually with the utmost care and optimum ripeness when nature allows. Transport to the manual and vibrating sorting tables is done in small crates. The final selection is made by optical sorting used since 2011.

Today, thanks to a cutting-edge system developed by a Swiss company, the vineyard manager at Château Phélan Ségur can finely measure and interpret the vigour in the vineyard throughout the year. This technology, called Greenseeker, is fitted to the straddle tractors. Linked to a GPS, it calculates the Normalised Difference Vegetation Index (NDVI). It gives a measurement of the physiological activity of the plants. The mapping thus obtained illustrates the evolution of the vineyard in real time and is a precious tool for decision-making: it allows a reliable estimate of the nutritional needs of the plants and control of their vigour throughout the year and measurement, for example, of their nitrogen status.

Key information for achieving more precise fertilisation and treatments, but also for carrying out corrective actions throughout the year, at the time of pruning or leaf removal.

At the crucial time of the harvest, and for the first time in October 2012, the determination of micro parcels that were homogeneous in terms of vigour led to new choices for vatting the grapes (corresponding, of course, to ripeness requirements).

It is also a long-term project, destined to be repeated year after year, to cross-reference with data from soil analysis, so as to constantly improve understanding of the vineyard.

This also accompanies environmental considerations associated with the principles of integrated viticulture, which seeks to minimise the use of inputs. Château Phélan Ségur is already ahead in the Ecophyto 2018 objective to reduce them by 50%, notably thanks to the use of the biotechnical method of sexual confusion which, applied to all the parcels, has already rendered the use of pesticides obsolete.

In the cellars of Château Phélan-Ségur

One of the first Médoc-style VAT room

At the centre of a park whose meadows stretch languorously down to the small port of Saint-Estèphe, the Palladian-style Château dominates the summit of a hillock that faces the estuary.  The model of committed owners, the Phélan family didn’t hesitate to break with the architectural practices of the time, to build a château centred on wine. Rather than designing it as a prestigious mansion, isolated from the production activity, they preferred to incorporate the vat room and cellar at the heart of the château, in an undeniably superb ensemble. They were among the first to design their vat room in the “Médoc style”.

An excellent know-how

Fermentation takes place over a dozen days, punctuated by regular pumping over, rack-and-return and punching down, specific to each batch, thus favouring the extraction of phenolic compounds in the wine. Then comes the critical phase of maceration over about twenty days, where the objective is to continue the extraction. The wine is tasted daily to decide the optimum date for running off. The 39 tanks allow for this precision vinification and are the basis for the future selections for blending. Steady development started in 2010 has allowed the addition of 8 tanks of 45 hl to the vat room, further improving the interpretation of the work within parcels that takes place in the vineyard.

After pressing and the separation of the free-run and press wines, they are “casked”; now stored in barrels, they can begin their malolactic fermentation in the warm atmosphere of the cellars. The wines take on more suppleness and roundness and rest through the winter.

The long task of blending begins at the end of winter and consists in rigorous tasting of each batch; it is at this stage that the selection is made with the invaluable assistance of Michel Rolland, consultant oenologist. Some batches are chosen to go into the blend for the Grand Vin of Château Phélan Ségur, while others are destined for the second wine Frank Phélan or for La Croix Bonis.

The final blend for the Grand Vin is then presented “to the world” in April during the en primeur tastings.


Once calm is restored after the harvest, the ageing of the Grand Vin, now blended, continues for around 12 more months; at Château Phélan Ségur, the ageing is a fundamental step. The proportion of new barrels never exceeds 50%. Five coopers loyal to the property have contributed their know-how over many years.

While complying with very precise technical specifications, the diversity of their respective products (origin of the wood, drying time, toasting, know-how) express themselves differently each vintage. Oxygen, oak tannins, and the aromas they bring are essential to the stabilisation of the wine and its development. Meticulous topping up of the barrels protects the wine from oxidation. Ageing is a fundamental step at Château Phélan Ségur: understanding of the vintage, judicious selection of coopers, racking from barrel to barrel, regular topping up, requirements and experience of the team in the cellar. Very special and loving care is given to the wines during this complex phase in their development.

Technical sheet

  • The producer
    Château Phélan-Ségur
  • Type of wine
    Second wine
  • Appellation
  • Superficy
    89 hectares
  • Age of the vines
    15 years
  • Harvests
    100% hand harvested
  • Barrels
    20% of new barrels
  • When should you drink it?
    Drink between 2021 and 2033
  • Wine apogee
  • How is it now?
    Young, can drink or age more
  • Service temperature

The vineyard

This Red wine (Second wine) from Saint-Estèphe is made with a vineyard that has an area of 89 hectares by Château Phélan-Ségur. The average age of the vines is 15 years. The harvest for this wine are 100% hand harvested.

Into the cellars

This wine has remained 12 months in Oak barrels. For this wine, the estate has made the choice to incorporate 20% of new barrels.


Located on the edge of the Gironde estuary, the Saint-Estèphe appellation is located around 50 km north of Bordeaux. Its location between the sea and the estuary gives it a mild climate, concretized by thermal regulation, good sunshine and a mixing of the winds, all of which are beneficial to the proper ripening of the grapes. It seems that vines were already planted on the territory of Saint-Estèphe in Roman times.
From the Middle Ages, the vineyard took off thanks to English traders who came to buy their wine in the port of Bordeaux. From the XVIIth century, the drainage of the marshy lands made it possible to further enlarge the surfaces.