Saint Estèphe Wines
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. and has less gravel, and more clay, than upstream towards Margaux. Estuary about 37 miles north west of Bordeaux. 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.
Famous Châteaux and Recommended Wines
Château Calon Segur
Château Cos d'Estournel
Château Lafon Rochet
Château Meyney can be dated back to the 17th century but its origins are much older as it is founded on an ancient ecclesiastical site. Meyney is one of the most ancient of the Northern Médoc vineyards, its recorded history goes back as far as 1662, when a large part of the actual buildings were constructed on and with the foundation of the Priory of Couleys (Prieuré des Couleys) , or the Convent of the Feuillants (Couvent des Feuilles) as it was also known. The Château is still sometimes referred to as Prieuré de Meyney.
The Château itself lies in the east of the appellation, next door to Châteaux Montrose and Phélan Ségur. Château Meyney has very much been an insider's choice as the wines have a been of persistently high quality throughout the 20th century. Today Meyney is thus under the ownership of Crédit Agricole Grands Crus, alongside Château Grand Puy Ducasse and the Sauternes Rayne Vigneau.
The vineyards of Château Meyney are a single plot of 126 acres stretching out over a series of gravel ridges overlooking the River Gironde. The soil is a mix of iron rich blue clay and sand about 3 metres deep over a limestone bedrock from a depth of about two metres – this is similar to Château Petrus in Pomerol. The pine forests on the coast shelter the vines from the north westerly winds. The grapes grown are 61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 10% Petit Verdot.
Château Meyney's wines are classified as Cru Bourgeois Supérieur and are deep, dark and concentrated with plenty of ripe blackcurrant fruit and a distinctive aroma of smoke, prunes, truffles, coffee and cherries. The wines are well structured, velvety smooth and weighty. They age well and should be cellared as they continue to develop well in the bottle.