Twelve Year Old St Estephe from Capbern at under $30

Posted on: 04/30/18 8:05 PM


We’re back in the land of ridiculous value old Bordeaux today, my favourite place to be!

The Château formerly known as Capbern Gasgueston, now simply ‘Capbern’, has been seriously hot property in Bordeaux in recent years. Both it and its brother property Calon Segur were two of the most sought-after releases of the 2016 futures. Capbern sold out in Bordeaux in a flash, and Calon Segur was like gold dust- released at $87.99 and now selling in the States for double that only 6 months later. Due to the small size of Capbern, it’s always hard finding ready to drink back vintages, and today we’ve got just that, at a particularly appealing price.


2006 Château Capbern Gasqueton, St Estephe Cru Bourgeois

This is a Bordeaux that I would put very firmly in the ‘classic’ category. Tannins, spice, and particularly strong fresh acidity (a hallmark of St Estephe and no doubt present here) at least jostle for lead position with the fruit. Alcohol is firmly in check at 13%, and this feels light, yet meaty, savoury, and intense.

More about the wine:

Both Calon Segur and Capbern were run up until her death in 2011 by the legendary and indefatigable Madame Denise Capbern Gasgueton, whose husband had inherited the pair of estates, which had been bought by his forebear George Gasqueton in the 19th century. Following his death in 1995, she became a figurehead for St Estephe and the left bank of Bordeaux in general. I regret never having had the chance to meet her, as by all accounts she was one hell of a lady. She was described in her obituary in The Times as resembling “a twinkly-eyed Mrs Tiggy-Winkle” and as having “a brusque, and occasionally high-handed manner that did not endear her to all… visiting her was like calling on an elderly, correct and somewhat schoolmistressy aunt who felt that I could and should behave better”.

Robert Parker never particularly liked these wines, never scoring either Calon or Capbern particularly highly. Things have changed under his successors, but the positive side of his underappreciation is that price of back vintages have to my mind been seriously held back by their low Parker scores. We recently sold Calon Segur 2000 at $114, an extraordinary wine and one of my favourites of the past couple of years- only available at that price because he didn’t rate it particularly highly. He gave this one a very measly 86- an extremely harsh score and one that I feel underestimates the wine to a ridiculous extent. This is simply not a Parker wine though- there is no richness here, no gobs of juicy fruit. This is a wine all about structure, and one that will only really show what it can do alongside a meal rather than quickly tasted and spat. While he’s the only major critic who has rated the 2006, if the score is a concern- consider the 2009. He gave it 85-87, Neal Martin gave 91+, Jancis Robinson gave it 17.5 and chose as her top pick from St Estephe. I have no doubts there would be similar disparity on the 2006.

Parker also slightly strangely referred to Capbern Gasqueton on more than one occasion as ‘Calon Segur’s rarely seen second wine’, when it has never been considered a second wine, rather an entirely separate 38 hectare estate which in fact has its own second wine, ‘Le Grand Village Capbern’.

Rarely seen is accurate though, finding back vintages of Capbern is seriously tough, due to it’s small size and big popularity. There’s no doubt that it’s an estate on the rise, and that the wines seem to be getting better and better. It’s one to watch- but in the meantime there is extraordinary value to be found in older, ready to drink vintages, when you’re lucky enough to be able to find them.

Posted in Bordeaux List By Guy Davies