One day 2 of my week in Bordeaux - it was time to drive to the northern part of the Médoc - for our visit to Château Cos d'Estournel - a winery in the Saint-Estèphe appellation of the Bordeaux region of France. It is also the name of the red wine produced by this property. The wine produced here was classified as one of fifteen ‘second growths’ in the original Bordeaux wine classification of 1855.
Château Cos d'Estournel produces the eponymous grand-vin, a second wine since 1994 - Les Pagodes de Cos from the estate's younger vines, as well as Château Marbuzet from fruit of nearby sites. The property is adjacent to Château Lafite-Rothschild in the neighbouring commune of Pauillac.
Cos d'Estournel has a complex history - The modern era began in 1917, when the estate was acquired by Fernand Ginestet. From Ginestet it passed through the hands of his daughter, Arlette, who married into the Prats family, to her three children, Jean-Marie, Yves and Bruno Prats, then most recently acquired by industrialist Michel Reybier. Bruno’s son Jean-Guillaume Prats (who we had a brief meeting with before our tasting) - stayed on as president of the property, and he continues to hold this position. Alongside Jean-Guillaume is the Cos d’Estounel ‘chef de cave’ Dominique Arangoits - who did take us through the wines.
During our visit we saw the start of a grand re-development of the winery and property with scaffolding and plastic sheeting starting to hide the estate. The sandstone that has given the chateaux its fabulously golden glow has not proved as resistant to the effects of the Bordeaux climate as the more familiar creamy stone found throughout the rest of the Médoc.
The vineyards of Cos d'Estournel are on the customary quaternary gravel which peppers the left bank of the Gironde. There are 70 hectares divided up into 30 parcels, with Cabernet Sauvignon holding the predominant position, accounting for 60% of the red vines, with the remaining 40% being Merlot. There was once a small amount of Cabernet Franc planted, about 2%, which seems to play only a minor part. The Cabernet is concentrated to the west of the vineyard, where there are well-drained gravel slopes, whereas the Merlot prefers the eastern edge where the limestone bedrock peeps out from beneath the surface gravels. Only vines of more than 20 years of age provide fruit for the ‘grand vin’, Chateau Cos d'Estournel, with other fruit destined for the second wine. The harvest is by hand, and is down to a combined work-force which includes the Cos d'Estournel staff and a team who trek there from the Andalucían village of Alcalá La Real, camping in the grounds of the estate at night, picking the grapes by day, we saw them working in the nearby vineyards.
Cos d’Estournel has a very strong, confident and exotic personality, some would say very contemporary wines which can hold up to 40% Merlot, which is rare in the Médoc. The result is highly brave, extremely generous, ripe, full of spice and a long finish. Cos d’Estournel is considered as the best of Saint-Estèphe and one of the very first in Médoc to use new oak barrels.
We were shown the new / currently bottled 2005 vintage of Chateau Cos d'Estournel (St Estèphe) & Les Pagodes de Cos - which were far too young to do the wines justice - but the 'grand-vin' its renowned bold character and power was for all to see, a blend of Cabernet, Merlot and a pinch of Cabernet-Franc - open in 10-14 years.