The Saint-Estèphe wine area is renowned for red wines - produced in the northern Médoc region of Bordeaux - France. Named after the commune of Saint-Estèphe - the area is the most northern of the 6 wine appellations in Médoc. Saint-Estèphe wine area achieved its AOC appellation back in November 1936.
Records show that vines have been cultivated in and around Saint-Estèphe since Roman times. In the middle ages the wine industry grew, thanks to English wine buyers regularly visiting and trading in Bordeaux. In the 17th century the area which was marshlands, was drained and channels built, resulting in a large area of land available for cultivation. The soil contains a mixture of gravels, sand, though containing a slightly higher proportion of clay.

 

Due to the large deposits of clay - St. Estèphe often produce great wines in hot, dry years. The varietals recommended for this appellation include: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Carménère, Malbec and Petit Verdot. The AOP regulations do not instruct the exact proportions to be combined, but in practice most blends consist predominantly of Cabernet Sauvignon. While some Châteaux have recently increased the planting and therefore proportion of Merlot - in order to make their young wines earlier drinking and softer on the mid-palate - though most still use 60% or more Cabernet Sauvignon in their blends. The key producers include: Château Cos d'Estournel, Château Montrose, Château Calon-Ségur, Château Lafon-Rochet, Château Cos Labory, Château Haut-Marbuzet, Château Meyney, Château de Pez, Château Phélan-Ségur.
The density of planting required is at least 7000 vines per hectare. The rows should be positioned no more than 1.5 metres apart and the distance between any two vines within a row should not be less than 0.8 metres. All of these and canopy manage regulations are designed to ensure the growth of sufficient foliage for the grapes to fully ripen.
The method of harvesting is also not stipulated in AOP regulations, with many estates now using machine harvesting, although some prestigious estates, still harvest by hand. This practice is preferred as it is possible to sort at the same time as harvesting. Though a further round of sorting does that take place when the harvest is loaded onto the sorting table in the winery. The minimum alcohol content is set at 11% by volume. When it is decided that a wine needs enriching, the alcohol level should not exceed 13.5% by volume. When the harvest is of such exceptional quality that it does not need enriching, there is no upper limit to the naturally occurring alcohol allowed - *(though not past 15.5% Alc./vol).
The Saint-Estèphe vineyards have 1,377 hectares under vine and is the largest of the major, Bordeaux appellations in the Médoc. There are roughly 136 grape growers, of those, there are about 56 different Châteaux and roughly 80 growers provide their fruit to a négociant or co-operative. On average, 550,000 cases of wine are produced annually, representing approximately 6.5 million bottles per year.
Due to its large size, it is easy to find a diverse array of wines from growers within the St. Estèphe region. For example: Cos d’Estournel can produce the ripest, most exotic style of wine in the appellation. Then the wines from Château Montrose, are more structured, powerful and perhaps longer lived. In vintages where the grapes are capable of ripening, the wines from these two Châteaux, as well as at the other top estates are never harsh. When mature, the wines of Saint-Estèphe deliver rich, concentrated wines with; cassis, fresh blackberry, tobacco, cigar box, mineral and dried spice notes - enjoy.