Château Cos d’Estournel

The "Maharajah of Saint-Estèphe"

Château Cos d’Estournel, the creation of an idiosyncratic individual nicknamed the “Maharajah of Saint-Estèphe” for his taste for wines which had done the return-trip to India, is one of the very finest Bordeaux wines. It is one of the ‘Super Seconds’, a category comprising few Second-Classed Growth Médoc estates which have managed to raise their standards to a sort of intermediary level between Second and First-Classed Growth.
The winery was built by the founder of the estate, Louis-Gaspard d’Estournel, who was nicknamed the Maharajah of Saint-Estèphe not because he exported wine to India – there was nothing exceptional in that, the fact that the English consumed copious quantities of claret in India is born out by documents of the time – but because he was the first to think of selling “Returned from India” wines, that is wines which had been sent in barrel to Bombay or Calcutta and then been shipped back to Europe. This singular gentleman, who shaped the Cos we know today, died a ruined man in 1853, two years before the 1855 classification of Bordeaux wines which ranked Cos d’Estournel as the top Saint-Estèphe.

Michel Reybier acquired Château Cos d’Estournel in 2000 and has since then deeply invested to magnify this exceptional terroir of 91 ha. One of the most spectacular investments is the magnificent cellar facilities built in the 2000s to develop a parcel-by-parcel approach (61 parcels vinified in 72 separate vats) and benefit of gravity flow winemaking, banishing all pumps.

This new cellar, fruit of long years of joint reflection by the Château technical team and the architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte, enables the purest respect of the grapes and thereby of the expression of terroir. This has helped to reveal all the potential of the estate that enjoys quite a unique style, that partly comes from the large proportion of Merlot for a Saint-Estèphe (40% of the vineyard but around 19-25% of the blend of the Grand Vin) and the presence of vines with an average age of 55 years and some that are over 100 years old, with a high plant density of 8,000 to 10,000 vines per hectare.

Cos is separated from Lafite Rothschild simply by a stream, the Jalle du Breuil, and the soils are made of günz gravel, shaped in regular, perfectly-drained ridges. The proportion of the different varieties is ideally suited to the terrain: Cabernet is planted in the poor gravel of the top of the ridges and their southern slopes, while Merlot is to be found on the east-facing slopes and those parts where the Saint-Estèphe limestone rock base shows through.

A severe final selection process whittles down the production level to between 250,000 and 380,000 bottles, depending on the vintage. The fruit of the youngest vines are used for making the second wine, Les Pagodes de Cos.

Stendhal, passing through the Médoc, had his eye drawn to Cos d’Estournel: “The first thing I saw in this somewhat empty countryside was a few large trees around a sort of château with a tower. (…) If the truth be known, this most elegant building, of brilliant pale yellow hue, is of no particular style; it is neither Greek nor Gothic, but is most pleasing and rather Chinese in appearance. On the facade a single word is inscribed: Cos.”

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