At the very farthest northern point in the Bordeaux’s Haut-Medoc district lies Saint-Estèphe. Known for its Cabernet Sauvignon-driven wines, this Left Bank appellation’s signature style is one of exceptional depth, power and intensity.
Saint-Estèphe, with an expanse of over 3,000 acres, accounts for 8% of the vineyards in the Médoc. Due to its distance from the Garonne River, its soils are much less stony than those to the south, and instead are replaced by a more clay and limestone mix that inhibits drainage. In response, the winemakers in Saint-Estèphe have been increasing their production of Merlot which not only performs better in clay, but also when blended into the appellation’s favored Cabernet Sauvignon, tempers the acidity and softens the overall texture of the wines.
The appellations regulations require the use of Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Carmenère and Petite Verdot, but
Typical Saint-Estèphe wines are generally known for their depth of color and dark-fruit forward flavors. They are also intensely aromatic, lending another layer of intensity when experiencing the wines first-hand. The appellation counts numerous classed growth among its offerings, most notably second growths Châteaux Cos d’Estournel and Montrose, third growth Château Calon-Segur, fourth growth Château Lafon-Rochet, and fifth growth Château Cos Labory. It also produces wines under Cru Bourgeois. In tandem, local independent vignerons have begun to produce wine under the auspices of co-ops, including Marquis de Saint-Estèphe and Canterayne.
While the wines can be highly acidic and tannic early on, age improves them tremendously – so much so that at their best, the wines of Saint-Estèphe can proudly compete with its rivals. As with most things in life, timing is everything.