Saint Estèphe is the most northern appellation of the Haut-Médoc. It sits on the left bank of the Garonne and is the closest appellation to the mouth of the River Gironde, where it joins the Atlantic Sea. The vineyards of Saint Estèphe cover 3000 acres.
During the 1855 Classifications of Bordeaux wines Saint Estèphe was awarded 5 Grands Crus Classés – Château Cos d'Estournel and Château Montrose being the stars of this appellation. Saint Estèphe also has over 40 Cru Bourgeois including the Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnels.
Terroir and Grapes
Saint Estèphe lies on layers of gravel on top of clay washed ashore from the Gironde and the harvest is one of the latest of the whole region. It has less gravel, and more clay, than upstream towards Margaux. This soil drains more slowly and gives the vineyards an advantage during dry summers. The soil is cooler, delaying ripening, and leave the grapes higher in acidity that their more southern counterparts.
Quartz and well rounded pebbles mingled with light, sandy surface soil are found everywhere, giving the wines a distinctive finesse. And the subsoil is made up of the famous Saint Estèphe limestone, which outcrops on the west of the appellation.
While Cabernet Sauvignon is the dominant grape, Saint Estèphe has more planting of Merlot than any other area on the Left Bank. Other grapes grown are Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Carmenère and Malbec.
Saint Estèphe wines are dark and opaque in colour, earthy, firm, robust and tannic. The tannins and acidity come from the rich and heavy clay and Merlot softens the wines. They reach their maturity slower than other Médoc wines so they can be laid down for a very long time while yet preserving their youth and freshness. They are known for their exceptional backbone with aromas of great finesse.