St Estèphe wines, from the northernmost segment of the Médoc region which is north of Bordeaux, are well known by wine connoisseurs. It is a pretty region, ranging along the river, and it is rife with history. These wines are said to be deeper than neighboring Pauillac, perhaps because the region has more clay subsoil (like Pomerol) and less gravel.
Here are just five wines that are part of the famed 1855 Classification. The best known are surely Château Cos d’Estournel and Château Montrose (both Second Growths in that classification), and Château Calon Ségur (a Third Growth). There is also a Fourth Growth, Château Lafon Rochet, and the Fifth Growth, Château Cos Labory.
St Estèphe Wines of Bordeaux: Your French Wine Guide
Château Cos d’Estournel
The chateau has a rich history, mirroring the supple wines produced here, which gain in concentration from long cellaring. I once asked Bruno Prats, then the owner of Château Cos d’Estournel, when his family drank their own wines. He said without hesitation, “We wait a dozen years for a bottle, and twenty for a magnum of wine.”
He clearly favored the taste from a magnum, as did most of the Bordelais wine families that I knew.
- A bottle of the excellent 2009 vintage now retails for $431, while the 2010 sells for $335.
- There is another option – the estate’s fine second growth, “Pagodes de Cos,” 2009 vintage $73, and $72 for the 2010 vintage.
Château Calon Ségur
History is still living here, with its quirky results. The owner of Château Calon Ségur, for example (“calon” is a local word referring to a dugout canoe, years ago a popular means of transportation on the river), in discussing the 1855 Classification with me, said that there had been several bad harvests at that time, which directly affected the property’s showing. Even worse, a former owner had just sold off the property that became the Second Growth, Château Montrose!
And so, probably for all time, Château Calon Ségur will have its Third Growth classification, and its owners a nagging sense of what-might-have-been!
- The 2010 vintage retails for $115, and the luscious 2009 vintage sells for $123. (Buy one of each for the long term – you’ll be rewarded by an appreciative dinner audience when these fine wines are uncorked, in a dozen years or more.) Calon Ségur is the northernmost classified wine in the Médoc.
Château Montrose, Château Lafon Rochet, and Château Cos Labory
Château Montrose, with a favored location on a hillside overlooking the Gironde River, is a deep wine, best consumed in magnums. It used to be called “the poor man’s Château Latour,” due to a taste many perceived to be deep and rich, like that Pauillac First Growth.
- However it would not be a poor man who could drink this fine wine these days, since a bottle of the excellent 2010 vintage retails for $267.
- A far better bargain would be a 2010 vintage bottle of the second wine, La Dame de Montrose, at a more affordable $59.
- Compared to these prices, the Fourth Growth Château Lafon Rochet is a comparative bargain at $58 for the 2010 vintage, while the Fifth Growth Château Cos Labory is something of a steal at $45!
Fortunately for the wine consumer, St. Estèphe is rich in another classification, the Crus Bourgeois. Started in 1934, revived and then the subject of successful lawsuits after the 2003 reclassification, it has riches to be discovered in the Cru Bourgeois classification (which, by a decision in September 2014, the hardy members of the Alliance du Cru Bourgeois du Médoc intend to revive for 2016, when the 2014 vintage will hit the American market).
Here, there are bargains for the wine lover.
- There were just 9 crus bourgeois exceptionnels in the 2003 classification – and St Estèphe has 4 of them! Try Château Haut Marbuzet, for example (2010 vintage, $47).
- There were also 9 crus bourgeois supérieurs such as the wonderful and usually available Château Meyney (2010 vintage $37), perhaps the greatest bargain of all. Meyney is located on a hillside top and on the slopes, with a marvelous view overlooking the river. If you are ever in the region, you will be surely tempted to bring along a picnic basket – and a bottle of Meyney – and enjoy a fine afternoon in this scenic corner of the Médoc!
How many St Estèphe wines have you tasted? Which were your favorites? Comment below!