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Bordeaux En Primeur 2012 – Chanel’s Chateau, Rauzan Segla, Reclaims its Glory

rausan1Chanel’s chateau, Rauzan Segla, shocked many wine merchants when the estate released their 2012 En Primeur at an enticing price (37% down on 2011). The estate’s new commercial strategy was encouraged by Director John Kolasa who told Decanter: “There are many friendly wines in 2012, and I hope to offer some friendly pricing also, and give people a good deal.”

The 2012 Rauzan Segla is definitely a good purchase and I hope that it encourages more wine enthusiasts to buy this lovely wine. Robert Parker scored the 2012 vintage 93 – 95 points and said that the 2012 Rauzan Segla may turn out to be as strong an effort as their 2010 (which is currently being sold for nearly double the price of 2012!).

Parker’s Tasting Note:

A brilliant blend of 54.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot (which accounts for the wine’s ripeness and intensity), and the rest a tiny dollop of 1.5% Petit Verdot, it boasts an inky/blue/purple color as well as gorgeous aromas of black and blue fruits, spring flowers, and hints of background toast and forest floor. Well-integrated wood and acidity as well as moderately ripe tannins make for a medium to full-bodied, expansive, flavorful, rich, well-delineated effort. It will need 3-5 years of bottle age and should drink well for two decades thereafter.”

Rauzanchanel Segla has been owned by the Wertheimer family since 1994. They also own Chanel (the company was founded in 1909 by Pierre Wertheimer, who eventually bought out his early partner Gabrielle (Coco) Chanel, the company’s namesake) and another two Bordeaux estates: Chateau Canon (purchased in 1996) and its neighbour Chateau Matras (purchased in 2011, to increase Canon’s production). Since its purchase Rauzan Segla has been completely renovated with one thing in mind: a full renaissance of this great estate.

One of the Wertheimers’ first moves was to hire David Orr as Chairman and John Kolasa as Director. Both had held similar posts at Chateau Latour. Oddly enough the founder of Rauzan Segla, Pierre Desmezures de Rauzan, was the manager of Chateau Latour (and also Chateau Margaux) over 350 years ago.

rauzan 22Stepping back to reclaim the past has been a major theme in Rauzan Segla’s rebirth – the Wertheimer’s changed the spelling of the chateau’s name back to its original (it had been previously misspelt as Rausan Segla). Emulating former glories is no mean feat – Rauzan Segla has a colourful and historic past. The chateau was once part of the Noble House of Gassies and was purchased by Pierre Desmezures de Rauzan (a successful Bordelaise merchant) in 1661. Success followed and the Rauzan family grew in wealth and importance and by 1700 Rauzan was a considerable estate in the Medoc. On Pierre’s death his only daughter inherited the Pauillac vineyards, which were to become the Pichon estates of Pichon Baron and Pichon Lalande. (Later marriages also created both Chateau Desmirail and Marquis de Terme which were created from Rauzan, having been split off as their dowries).

The family prospered, producing Counsellors in the Bordeaux Parliament and not unsurprisingly the reputation of their wines grew to a remarkable rauzan segla copydegree. Jean de Rauzan, now a Marquis, took his wine making so seriously that the local peasants thought he was in league with the devil. He insisted on growing only the ‘noble’ grape varieties in his vineyard and ripped out the rest. There is a story about his bullish pricing strategy. He was convinced that the Bordeaux shippers were underpaying him for his wine so he chartered a vessel, filled it with his best vintages and crossed the English Channel to London to sell directly from the ship. Finding no takers, he announced he would toss his wine into the Thames until buyers stepped forward. He dumped a cask over the side; then another, then two more. Finally, unable to bear the waste of good wine, the crowd began to buy and, it is reported, at the Marquis’s price.

rausan4Around 1763 the Rauzan estate was divided into Rauzan Segla and Rauzan Gassies, both chateaux being owned by Rauzan family members. The wine’s reputation continued to grow – Thomas Jefferson, later President of the USA, ordered 10 cases of Rauzan in 1790, recording Rauzan at the finest of the Second Growths. In the 1855 Classification of 1855, Rauzan Segla was placed just below Chateau Mouton Rothschild, which had been designated the best of the Second Growths. When Mouton Rothschild was elevated to First Growth status in 1973, the only time the Classification has ever been changed, Rauzan Segla became the ‘First of the Seconds’.

rauzanHowever in the intervening centuries the Rauzan family line died out and subsequently the chateau passed through the hands of several different owners. Rauzan Segla suffered from a lack of investment and declining vineyards, despite sporadic improvements by subsequent owners. The estate was rescued by the Wertheimers who saw the potential in this sleeping giant. Thanks to a renovation carefully carried out according to the original plans of 1904 the chateau itself looks again as it used to one century ago. The vineyards are in peak condition and after an existence of three and a half centuries Rauzan Segla has now gained all it needs to remain true to its past reputation. This is all having an impact – the wines are full of style, elegance and harmony but are also very approachable. Rauzan Segla is most certainly ‘on the up’, thank heavens its prices are not. I have acquired allocations of the 2012 so if you are interested in buying this vintage of Rauzan Segla please see Interest In Wine.

 

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