The contemporary mythology of Bordeaux often focuses on ‘garagiste’ winemakers and/or “vintage(s) of the century.” Still, the more we explore the heavily hyped new (and seemingly ever-riper and more alcoholic) wines of Bordeaux, the more we find ourselves returning to the same proven short list of small family properties who have consistently delivered the goods for generations. Danielle Meunier and her tiny Château Haut-Segottes is never far from the top of that list. Saint-Émilion Grand Cru real-estate, tended by a fascinating and gifted female winemaker, which produces a singular wine of extraordinary quality and unbeatable value—what more could a Bordeaux lover want?
Danielle Meunier works the same modest farmstead her family has owned in Saint-Émilion, Bordeaux, since the early 1800s. She has a bold and direct manner, and the philosophy behind her property is similarly straightforward. Château Haut-Segottes is essentially a one-woman show with winemaking done in the basement and all grapes grown in the “backyard.” Of course, this is no ordinary backyard—the property is within a designated Grand Cru and a mere 300 meters from Saint-Émilion's most famous estate, Château Cheval Blanc (MSRP ~$1,300 per bottle). This, Danielle’s only wine bottled under the Saint-Émilion Grand Cru appellation, is predominantly Cabernet Franc, with Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. Fermentation occurs in steel tank, followed by 18 months in small oak barrels (20% new) and bottling without filtration. This simple, old-school approach produces wines that are coarse in their youth, but blossom after a few years in the cellar.
The 2012 Château Haut-Segottes Saint-Émilion Grand Cru is garnet at the rim with an opaque crimson core. This vintage enjoys a touch more body than usual with layers of vivid blackberry, currant and plum fruit—and as is typical for 2012, assertive youthful tannins provide a nicely delineated frame for the whole picture. Aromatically, Haut-Segottes is always a chameleon: currants and cedar one moment, pipe tobacco, violets and black truffles the next, then wet stone and graphite—but in 2012, those aromas are a touch more raw and primal. We like this vintage’s less restrained expression of Meunier’s classic Saint Emilion and think it makes the wine especially enjoyable to drink at a younger age. When I first checked in on this wine in 2016, it needed 45 minutes in a decanter to really show its stuff. Today, it’s bursting out of the gate as soon as the cork is pulled. Still, please decant the wine and enjoy slowly if you want to maximize the experience. And since there’s never a bad time to whip up some classic sauce Bordelaise to slather over some steaks, we’ve attached an easy recipe. Few combinations are as simple and perfect. Cheers!