100 Years of Château Siran
Tasting held at the chateau on January 20th 2015
Château Siran dates back to 1428 and Guilhem de Siran, and by the 17th century it was well established as a wine producer. On January 14 1859, so nearly exactly 150 years ago, the Miailhe family bought Siran from painter Toulouse Lautrec’s grandparents.
We were tasting through a century of wines, eleven decades, four owners (heading back to current owner Edouard Miailhe’s great-grandfather with the 1914 vintage) and through five consultants, starting with the legendary Emile Peynaud in the 1960s through to Hubert de Boüard who began with the most recent 2014 vintage.
Siran had 18 hectares of vines at the outbreak of war, and it has risen only six hectares in the intervening years, standing today at 24.5 hectares in 2015 (with further vines in AOC Bordeaux and AOC Haut-Médoc). Until the 1960s, only a part of the wine would have been bottled at the château, the rest would have been sent in barrel to négociants in the cellars of Chartrons in downtown Bordeaux, or overseas to merchants in Bristol, London, New York or further afield, who would have then bottled using their own labels, mentioning both the château and their own names. But all the wines that we were tasting had been bottled here, and had never left the Siran cellars.
The blend in the vineyard in January 2015 is 46% merlot, 40% cabernet sauvignon, 13% petit verdot, 1% cabernet franc. The majority of these wines don’t have the blend noted, because exact records simply were not kept until the 1980s (although Edouard says there are heaps of boxes that he has to go through now that he is back full-time at the property).
Chateau Siran AOC Margaux 1986 as mise en bouche!
Taking on its tertiary characteristics here, where figs and violets are coming into play, softer leather scents, and the colour showing red brick tiling around the edges. On the palate this is beautifully soft and gentle, but certainly feels like a 1980s wine, the flavour just gently peals away at the end. It doesn't drop off a cliff, but seems to softly disappear.
Chateau Siran AOC Margaux 1914
Here the colour is almost entirely walnut (Edouard Mialhe has the 1912 in the cellar as well, but said that it was really faded to nothing). The nose is delicate, pale orange confit, butterscotch, quite strong tobacco leaf with a sweet edge. The palate emphasises the sweetness, it is very delicate and subtle, very little fruit discernable, I guess at a push you can find a hint of strawberry consommé like the one made by Thierry Marx in Cordeillan Bages. Alcohol as you would expect feels very light. For a wine made at the start of the first world war, this is pretty incredible and very moving. Edouard’s grandfather had gone to fight, so this was made by his great-grandfather. Not great weather in the Médoc in 1914, which has not helped its staying power, but a wonderful beginning to this tasting.
Chateau Siran AOC Margaux 1916
Good vintage. Two years on, again fully in the war years, this still displays a lovely tawny butterscotch colour. For me the nose is a little more subdued than the 1914, but the flavours more intense, again the tobacco leaf but very clear fruit this time, raspberries, loganberries, but all as if they have been through the strainer, with the heart of them set aside for making into jam and this is what has been left behind, fragrant and haunting. You have to pay attention to old wines, give them the respect that they deserve (or rather that the people who made them deserve). Even some mouth-watering qualities here, and love the delicacy, again this alcohol that can’t cIimb over 11%abv. Very pretty wine.
Chateau Siran AOC Margaux 1921
Very good vintage. Still in the brown spectrum of colour, but more cold coffee this time, certainly more intense in colour and the nose is really hugely surprising. Get ground coffee leftovers here, floral scents, some geranium also though which is not a hugely good sign in terms of bacterial spoilage. I prefer the 1916. This is a more impactful wine though; it has not exactly tannins but a gunpowder residue, cold ash, yesterday's cinders. Grows on me as I re-taste, but fairly austere, and the acidity level is higher than in the first two wines.
Chateau Siran AOC Margaux 1928
The colour is tawny-brown, but with a warm glow, just a few of those red-purple anthocyanins clinging on for dear life. There is still a fragrant bouquet here, recognisable for its gentle redcurrant fruits, alongside tobacco, truffles, tar, slightly saline, this one makes you smile with how well it has held up, with a line of acidity that is keeping it alive. Love this. Wow.
Chateau Siran AOC Margaux 1929
Another exceptional vintage, and the colour is similar to the 1928 – cold coffee, surprisingly intense. Very similar nose also to the 1928, both have held their own exceptionally well. On the palate this is smoother, more fleshed out, this emphasises the spicy side of the wine, clear white pepper, lovely herbal edge, saffron, again touches of salinity, truffles and floral edge of faded roses. A true experience to taste, a piece of history.
Chateau Siran AOC Margaux 1937
Very good. Here the colour is tinged with orange-russet, still primarily tawny but just warming up. Not a huge amount on the nose, nor on the palate for me this is a bit of a ghost wine, lacks some impact. It's pretty, it has no hard edges, tannins perfectly melted into the fruit, but not the power nor haunting refrain of the last two,
At the end of the first series, dominant taste in my mouth is of wild strawberries and soft leather. Not drying, not dusty, hugely pleasurable. Astonishing really after tasting six wines that are between 78 and 100 years old…
Chateau Siran AOC Margaux 1947
Second series starts with the 1947, so made in a Médoc recovering from the second world war. Colours more intense here, tawny edges tinged with soft dawn oranges, pinks and gentle reds. On the palate, this is incredible. This genuinely tiptoes along your palate, like a ninja assassin not wanting to awaken its target. Soft red fruits, cushioned with a lovely lilting acidity without being too much. Again mouthwatering, could easily and happily drink several glasses of this, reminded of the 1972 Lafite in terms of making you go to it, it's not coming to you, but it's worth the effort. The fragrance of roses is the clear, a late evening fragrance before they closes up for the night.
Chateau Siran AOC Margaux 1949
Very good vintage. We are getting into classic old-but-still-alive territory, with hints of liquorice and leather, tar and roses, still soft and haunting, light in alcohol, a hint of sweetness and of TS Eliot Four Quartets, follow me into the rose garden. Touches of coffee grounds again here. Hugely drinkable, could very easily polish that glass off.
Chateau Siran AOC Margaux 1955
Very good vintage, still made with no outside consultant (Emile Peynaud arrived in the 1960s). Colour is still on the russet-brown spectrum, but deepened to a dark leather by this point, a gentleman’s drawing room, a Chesterfield sofa. Very different on the palate also, almost a jolt to remember that there can be alcohol in the Médoc! This feels rounder, more butterscotch and caramel, quite clearly more gourmet. Still not fruit exactly, but a nudge that there once was lots of it, certainly get dried figs here. Tannins soft, yielding, again more of a memory than a presence. Still, this is a robust, well held together wine.
Chateau Siran AOC Margaux 1959
Exceptional. Any time you get to taste a 1959 you hold your breath a little. Unfortunately last year I was spoiled with the Mouton 59 and the Lafite 59 in both red and white versions... So do your best Siran... There is definitely, for the first time unequivocally, red ruby colour here, the shades are warming up, getting their youthful bloom on. Beautiful nose, soft sweet caress of wild strawberries and elderflower, with brushes of dried herbs and ever so gentle hints of butterscotch. Get fairly high acidity, but there is fruit and tannin alongside, so if not in perfect balance, it is way away from falling over. It's the nose that I love the most here, just a beautiful hymn to the Médoc, to the charm of southern Margaux.
Chateau Siran AOC Margaux 1961
Exceptional vintage, again one that is always a privilege to taste. Colour taking on just a little more warmth again. The nose though for me a little less warm and gentle than the 1959, a little more pointed. Get a hazy smoky edge on the nose, and the palate is gorgeous. Clear smoke, wood burning stove, lovely gentle red fruits, still on the just-ripe scale so loganberries and cranberries and wild strawberries. Totally beautiful wine, what a pleasure.
Chateau Siran AOC Margaux 1966
Very good vintage. By this point Emily Peynaud had been working with Siran for a few years. Extraction of colour seems clearer, and again the colour demonstrates another leap to the younger purple/red spectrum, even though this is still almost 50 years old. Beautiful percolating coffee now instead of cold coffee grounds, almost the aromas of a young wine, black truffle instead of white. The wine just floats along your palate, it doesn't build in power exactly but it certainly holds on. Ending is a little disappointing, the 1961 takes the win from the two 1960s wines on display.
At the end of the second series, I love that not a single wine so far feels anything other than delicate and fresh. Just love the alcohol of this era, what have we done to wine by turbo charging it??
Chateau Siran AOC Margaux 1970
Getting into the modern era now, still Emile Peynaud as the consultant, still no record of the exact grape blend, although we can expect that this was fairly high merlot, as it is today, with petit verdot and cabernet sauvignon. Our spectrum of colours in this flight are ruby and purple, we are leaving the past behind, jolting into present day, rather sadly. 1970 has the pointed nose of many of 1970s Bordeaux, where the fruit seems to have faded away too completely. Prefer this on the palate though, it is in no way jarring. Still, fruit is not there, this is coffee, truffles, leather, but with the fruit stripped away. An oddly disconcerting effect, a little hollow in the centre.
Chateau Siran AOC Margaux 1978
Pretty much the only other decent vintage in the 1970s, and the first of this tasting where I was alive when the wine was made. Still Emile Peynaud as consultant. Lovely colour, ruby with tile rim, very pretty, very Médoc. Like the nose here as well, get Médoc typicity now, tar and woodsmoke, hints of liquorice, game, cassis. This is excellent and would still be very pleasurable with food (acidity a little high without it). Very good. Slightly higher alcohol levels gives a crème de cassis affect, but still no obvious heat.
Chateau Siran AOC Margaux 1983
Very good vintage, and Margaux commune specifically known for having a very good 1983, in many cases better than the 1982 (we were lucky enough to have the Palmer 1983 at lunch after this tasting – another former Miailhe estate). An almost exact meeting point here of tawny hazelnut casing and ruby red colour. Lovely fragrant succulent nose, grilled meat, more youthful fresh flowers here, almost violet, certainly peonies with a smoky refrain hanging over the whole. This smells young, vibrant, complicated, worth getting to know. Absolutely love this, some maddening smells that are just out of your reach, you know them but chase after them, the sign of complexity. Lovely, difficult to pin down, like a Deyrolle butterfly.
Chateau Siran AOC Margaux 1985
Again, a very good vintage in Margaux. At this stage of the tasting, by the way, am detecting slight build up of acidity from all these old wines, but still balanced out by soft summer fruits and gentle leather flavours, and very very impressive that it has taken so long, when you consider the age of wines that we are stacking up here. Ruby red, lovely brilliant reflections, fairly intense colour. This is young and vibrant on the nose, get clear tobacco, gourmet burnt caramel shavings, good squeeze of acidity to kick-start the fruit. A seriously lovely wine. Not that it feels young, but youthful, like we all hope we appear as we hit our 30th birthday. I went to Dublin for mine; this wine could go anywhere and be warmly welcomed.
Chateau Siran AOC Margaux 1989
Exceptional vintage. Still not getting overpowered by alcohol, and we are nearly in the 1990s. First one with grape information!! 45% cabernet sauvignon, 35% merlot, 15% petit verdot, 5% cabernet franc. Lovely and soft but still intense nose, confident rather than obtrusive. Love how mouth-filling this is, builds in power without trying too hard. These are wines to savour, and are savoury in return. Can you get a better 1989 from AOC Margaux? Yes, there are others that still taste younger and more insisting. But put this in front of a roast chicken dinner and a Sunday table of friends, and it will be gone within a heartbeat. Lovely. Gentle acidity, tobacco. Firm tannins but still not drying, they are at full maturity.
Chateau Siran AOC Margaux 1998
Here we have a firm, deep, rich Médoc colour, this is relatively speaking a contemporary wine. We’re back Toto. If ever we need to know that we taste Médocs too young, it is through doing one of these reverse verticals. In normal circumstances, a 1998 would be considered an old wine, perfectly ready to drink, but in fact the tannins are still truly firm, the fruit still black, holding plenty of its secrets. This is gorgeous, yes, but this kind of tasting demonstrates just how much more it has to give...
The third series showcased some classically structured wines - and this is clearly the style of wine that we most clearly talk about as older, well-aged Médocs. Delicious, and all - with the possible exception of the 1970 - still have plenty more life in them.
Chateau Siran AOC Margaux 2000
An exceptional vintage, this is still really very young. The tannins are firm, it's a little oaky, drying for the first time. Despite the excellence of the year, this is not my favourite wine of the line-up, but may soften, certain not bitter, more astringent, but surprised at the oak use, the only one that strikes me as too much. Michel Rolland was consultant at the time, so it’s tempting to say that this is a result of over-enthusiastic new oak, but he also consulted on the beautiful 1998, so perhaps it is simply needs more time. Love the nose, loganberry and damson, very promising. It has inky dense fruit, clearly one that is more than going to hold its own over the coming decades. Blend is 54% merlot, 28% cabernet sauvignon, 12% petit verdot, 6% cabernet franc.
Chateau Siran AOC Margaux 2003
The heat wave year, good nose, doesn’t seem to be too dried out, no dried fruits and figs, Denis Dubourdieu had come along at this point and maybe urged the pickers to move faster. This is very good actually, some firm layers of fruit, still fairly black in character, good tannins, dark peppery spices and some acidity. Lacks huge persistency but still impressive. The blend is 46.5% merlot, 34% cabernet sauvignon, 6.5% cabernet frac and 13% petit verdot, which must have been hugely helpful in this vintage. For me the blend is crucial in explaining why this has held up so well, along with the clay/gravel terroir.
Chateau Siran AOC Margaux 2005
Exceptional vintage. A high 51% merlot, 34% cabernet sauvignon, 15% petit verdot, no cabernet franc, began harvesting September 14. Love the nose here. Dark in colour, still pinpricks of violet alongside the ruby, lovely smoky burnt vanilla pods. Plush damson fruits, alcohol clearly higher at this point, but well balanced and in check. Gourmet, just a touch short on the finish for the vintage, but very good indeed.
Chateau Siran AOC Margaux 2009
Exceptional vintage. Dark, dark, come in from the dark, this is inky purple, hints of red just peeping through, 48% merlot, 45% cabernet sauvignon, 7% petit verdot so less than usual, no cabernet franc, get a hit of alcohol on the nose and on the palate, which slightly dampens down the fruit. Still good damson on palate also, with dark chocolate and liquorice. So young, and going through the closed phase that so many 2009s are right now.
Chateau Siran AOC Margaux 2010
Exceptional again! Blend is 46% merlot, 43% cabernet sauvignon, 11% petit verdot. Even the nose is closed down, burly, the barbarian at the gate. Perhaps most obvious liquorice of the lot, there is barely a smudge of daylight in between the slats here, very tightly knit tannins, good acidity, think we can safely say this has ambition to be tasted in 2110. Still glass-staining purple, very much primary fruit and primary push, not beginning to soften. But it will one day, and I hope I have a few bottles at the ready when it does.
Chateau Siran AOC Margaux 2014
We started with this (by mistake, before the 1986 mise-en-bouche), and we'll finish with it. Ah yes, that very young vibrant violet colour that is as typical of the en primeur week as traffic jams and getting lost in Pomerol, like a freshly poured crème de cassis, still laden down with fruits, I feel the weight of this, like a waiter carrying in a heaped tray of blackberries and blueberries almost stumbling from the weight. Nothing between this and a classified Margaux at this age. Very impressive future ahead of this wine – and every taster lucky enough to have been in this room today can now say that with confidence.