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Cos d’Estournel: The Importance
Described by Robert Parker as a “rival to Montrose and even some of the nearby first growth Pauillacs”, Cos d’Estournel continues to produce some of the finest wine in the appellation of St Estèphe. Although classified as a deuxième cru classé in the Bordeaux Classification of 1855, Parker describes it as “a wine of first growth quality”, exemplified by consistently high scores and praise in recent vintages and critics such as Jancis Robinson often endow it with ‘super-second’ status.
The wines of St Estèphe are unique, and as Jeff Leve writes, they “offer a purity and intensity that is seldom found in other Bordeaux wines”. The appellation’s terroir contains much more clay than its neighbours, the moisture retaining qualities of which allows the wines to excel in difficult hot vintages, such as 2003. This terroir means that St Estèphe consistently produces wines of high quality, despite fluctuations in conditions, and it is generally recognised that the finest terroir in the region is found in the vineyards of Cos d’Estournel, described by Jancis Robinson as one of the “stars of St Estèphe”.
Cos d’Estournel: The Insight
Cos d’Estournel is a wine that displays an extraordinary capacity for ageing, making it extremely collectable. The power and intensity of these wines means that they will usually start drinking well with at least 10 years of age, although certain less powerful vintages will be more conducive to earlier drinking. Described by the estate as a wine of masculine elegance, of power combined with grace and smoothness, Jeff Leve has gone on to describe the wines as “rich, sensuous, age worthy, concentrated, refined, powerful, elegant and tannic…Even though these wines are packed, everything is in perfect balance [and] the perfume offers a unique incense quality that is not found in other Bordeaux wines.”
The purchase of the Château by the entrepreneur Michel Reybier in 2000, proved a turning point for the wine it produces. His hiring of Jean-Guillaume Prats, the great-grandson of one of the earlier owners, paved the way for the installation of a modern wine-making facility, meaning that as Jeff Leve states the “wine being produced at Chateau Cos d’Estournel today [is] better than anything this historic estate has made at any point in [its] history” . The effect of this new facility, can be seen directly reflected in the critic scores, with it being consistently rated between 90-100 points by Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate from 2000 onwards. The highest rated vintages are 2003, 2005, 2009, 2010, 2014 and 2015, with many critics arguing that the 2009 vintage was the best vintage that the Château has ever produced. Tasting in 2010, Parker described the 2009 Cos d’Estournel as “one of the greatest young wines I have ever tasted...in the world!” And the future certainly looks bright for Cos d’Estournel, as Neal Martin writes that the new Managing Director Aymeric de Gironde “is the ideal person to guide the estate into the future.”
The Château also produces a white wine, Cos d’Estournel Blanc, composed of a blend of Sauvignon Blanc and Sémillon. Characterised by freshness achieved by the proximity to the Atlantic Ocean, the addition of Sémillon brings weight and texture. The 2015 Cos d'Estournel Blanc is described by Neal Martin as “crisp and fresh with a fine bead of acidity…an excellent Cos d'Estournel Blanc that should age with style and panache”, which recognises the ageing potential of this wine.
Cos d’Estournel’s second wine Les Pagodes de Cos is also recognised as a top wine in its own right, as demonstrated by high scores and widespread praise from critics such as Robert Parker, Neil Martin and James Suckling. Les Pagodes is made with the produce of younger vines from the same terroir as the Grand Vin, and vinified in exactly the same way. While the Grand Vin spends 18 months in barriques, the wine of Les Pagodes spends about 12 months, and has a softer, rounder character with a subtle presence of oak spice. It provides consumers with an excellent introduction to the wines of Cos, an earlier drinking lighter style which retains the depth and elegance of its Grand Vin. This has led many critics to consider it one of the best second wines in Bordeaux.
Château Marbuzet, Goulée Rouge and Goulée Blanc also form part of the Cos d’Estournel family. The vines belonging to Château Marbuzet originally belonged to Alexandre de Segur, who owned Lafite and Latour. Up to 1994, the product of any vines younger than 20 years from Cos were made into Marbuzet, making it a sort of second wine for Cos. However, now the second wine is vinified separated as Les Pagodes and Château Marbuzet is made from the 7 hectares of vines that surround the Château. It is composed of more or less equal quantities of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot with some Petit Verdot. The Goulée vines are planted on an exceptional terroir of deep gravelly soil and vinified by the team at Cos d’Estournel. Composed of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, it offers a fruitier style of wine more reminiscent of new world wines, while the Goulée blanc is a floral and fruity Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon blend.
Cos d’Estournel: The Background
Founded in 1811, Cos d’Estournel was one of the first Bordeaux châteaux to bottle, label and sell their own wine. Well known for its architecture, the exotic nature of the buildings at Cos, described by Jancis Robinson as “a façade of pure oriental folly”, were erected by the founder of the estate Louis Gaspard d’Estournel, to celebrate the remarkable success of his wine as far as India.
Cos is now owned by Michel Reybier, as part of a group comprising the luxury hotel groups La Reserve and the Seiler Hotel Group, and the Tokaj Hetszolo Vineyard in Hungary.
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