THE SAINT-ESTÃˆPHE APPELLATION WAS BORN FROM THE RIVER
The appellation lies on the banks of the estuary, in the heart of the MÃ©doc region, just 50km north of Bordeaux. Its proximity to both the sea and the estuary gives it a mild climate with regular temperatures, good sunshine and beneficial breezes, a combination of factors that ensures optimum ripeness levels in the grapes.
The 1250 ha of vines are planted in an area composed of well-drained outcrops. Their natural drainage properties are enhanced by the composition of the predominantly gravelly terroir. Thousands of years ago, in the quaternary era, the gravelly soils and stones of the faraway mountains were torn away by torrential rivers and settled in successive layers on the tertiary substrata. The gravel is composed of small round pebbles and white oval- shaped quartz stones as well as clay, flint, volcanic Lydian and grit mixed with varying proportions of sand and clay differing from one area of the appellation to the next. This remarkable geological diversity partly explains the variety of the landscapes and soil colours.
THE CHARACTERISTICS OF THE SAINT-ESTÃˆPHE TERROIR
One of the main characteristics of the Saint-EstÃ¨phe terroir is the presence of deep layers of clay which protect the vines from hydric stress in very dry years. Another characteristic of the terroir is the presence of a marine limestone (known as â€˜Saint-EstÃ¨pheâ€™ limestone) in certain parts of the appellation. The diverse soil composition, its interaction with the climate and the balance in the subsoils are what gives the Saint-EstÃ¨phe terroir its subtle yet complex character.
Grape varieties adapted to their diverse soils
The wines of Saint-EstÃ¨phe are the fruit of a very precise blend of grape varieties. Cabernet Sauvignon, the predominant varietal, gives the wines their complexity, finesse and intense aromas as well as a powerful tannic structure which ensures excellent potential for bottle ageing. The Merlot vines are well suited to gravelly-clay soils and give the wines their smooth tannic character, fruity aromas and roundness. Cabernet Franc counts for just 7% of the appellationâ€™s vines. It is more demanding than the Cabernet Sauvignon and thrives in its gravelly-clay soils or clay soils with limestone sub-soils. Lastly, Petit Verdot is present in small quantities. If optimal ripeness levels are reached then it lends the wines an intense colour, lively structure and enticing aromas of violet.
THE DISTINCTIVE AND ELEGANT WINES OF SAINT-ESTÃˆPHE
Although all the wines of Saint-EstÃ¨phe share the same DNA, the diversity of their microclimates and terroirs offer a multitude of different styles and expressions meaning that there is no one-size- fits-all description or category. They can, however, all be described as having an exceptionally powerful tannic structure resulting in excellent ageing potential. This does not prevent them from being enjoyed in their youth, however, thanks to their distinctive and elegant tannins which lend the wines a seductive, harmonious and very intense mouthfeel.
OUR VINEYARDS IN FIGURES
1250 ha (7.5% of the MÃ©doc wine region)
50% Cabernet Sauvignon
7% Cabernet Franc
3% Petit Verdot
Average production: 8.7 million bottles
Winemakers: 58 independent winegrowers and around 17 cooperative winegrowers at the Cave CoopÃ©rative de Saint-EstÃ¨phe
5 Grands Crus ClassÃ©s (Classified Growths) from the 1855 classification, around thirty â€˜Hors ClassÃ©sâ€™ (non-classified), around twenty Crus Bourgeois, 1 Cru Artisan
2017 Saint-EstÃ¨phe vintage report
2016 Saint-EstÃ¨phe vintage report
Saint-EstÃ¨phe, which was named â€˜Saint-Esteve de Calones’ up until the 18th century (de CalonÃ¨s meaning small receptacles for carrying wood) was born from the river with the first inhabitants using it as a means of developing commercial partnerships. The numerous streams, brooks and marshes conceal remnants of the regionâ€™s past and give us a valuable insight into the history of this beautiful winemaking village.
FROM THE BRONZE AGE UP UNTIL THE APPEARANCE OF THE FIRST VINES
The origins of Saint-EstÃ¨phe date back to ancient times. Numerous traces and archaeological ruins attest to a presence on its soil as far back as the Bronze Age (3500 B.C.). Its close proximity to the river made it easy for boatsmen of all origins to purchase local produce and exchange merchandise.
VINES WERE PRESENT AS FAR BACK AS THE GALLO-ROMAN ERA
The Gauls of the MÃ©doc, a native Celtic people known as the MÃ©dulli, who gave their own name to the MÃ©doc (meaning â€˜the land in the middleâ€™ or â€˜the middle of the watersâ€™) most likely began to cultivate vines here after being introduced to wines imported from Italy by the Romans.
Although we cannot really speak of viticulture in the MÃ©doc before the Middle Ages, it is highly likely that commercial and cultural relationships between these two peoples contributed to their knowledge of vine growing.
The mystery of Noviamagus! The lost Roman city of Noviamagus, mentioned in â€˜Ptolemyâ€™s Geographyâ€™, was just as large as the city of Burdigala (now Bordeaux) and was located, according to historians and geographical researchers, near the archaeological site of Brion, close the what is now Saint-EstÃ¨phe.
VITICULTURE WAS DEVELOPED BY MONKS IN THE MIDDLE AGES
Winegrowing in Saint-EstÃ¨phe probably dates back to the 13th century. It was initially developed by monks and continued to evolve throughout the Middle Ages. Wine was divine and much more readily consumed than the somewhat doubtful water. Saint-EstÃ¨phe is also situated on the Saint-Jacques de Compostelle pilgrimage route (the famous Way of Saint James). Arriving from the North for the worship of relics, they braved the dangers and crossed the river before mooring in the port of Saint-EstÃ¨phe. They took refuge in the churches of Notre-Dame- Entre-Deux- Arcs (situated at the entrance to the port before being destroyed in 1704) and Notre-Dame- de-Couleys (where ChÃ¢teau Meyney now lies). The passage of the pilgrims here attracted numerous tradesmen. â€˜La Foire de la Chapelleâ€™ (Chapel Fair) is still held in early September every year and bears witness to this era.
Despite certain periods of unrest, the English Occupation undeniably led to a sustainable economic rise in viticulture. The port of Saint-EstÃ¨phe enjoyed close links with the vines and continued to do so up until the 18th century.
THE â€˜PLANTING FEVERâ€™ OF THE 18TH CENTURY
The marshy landscapes, formed of small islands, changed drastically as of the 17th century following the drying up of the marshes by the Dutch at the request of Henry IV. The marshy landscapes were gradually replaced by a landscape of vineyards on sunny outcrops until viticulture became almost the only form of cultivation in the village. The modern division of the land into individual plots marked the beginnings of the wine domaines as we know them today. Wealthy Bordeaux parliamentarians began to take an interest in this geographical area to the north of Bordeaux and instigated a veritable colonisation here. Its rise in popularity was accentuated by the notion of â€˜Cruâ€™ which was developed in the early 18th century. The wines, referred to as â€˜the New French Claretâ€™, improved considerably in quality and earned themselves a reputation with international consumers.
Although the largest wine domaines belonged to nobility, aristocrats and wealthy wine merchants, Saint-EstÃ¨phe still counted a large number of local winemaking families who owned smaller sized domaines.
THE 19TH CENTURY SAW THE BEGINNINGS OF MODERN VITICULTURE
The original priory barns of the Middle Ages (the â€˜Bourdieuxâ€™) have long since disappeared and been replaced by chÃ¢teaux of varying architectural forms. The addition of the attractive word â€˜chÃ¢teauâ€™ to that of the â€˜cruâ€™ was undoubtedly the reason behind the frantic construction of numerous chÃ¢teaux throughout the 19th century. In the second part of the 19th century, new buyers including wealthy businessmen, merchants and French and foreign bankers began to purchase and develop the estates.
The winemaking village of Saint-EstÃ¨phe has remained intrinsically linked to its vineyards, although its deep historical roots have not prevented it from staying at the forefront of innovation and counting some of the worldâ€™s most prestigious chÃ¢teaux to its name. The image of Saint-EstÃ¨phe is one of a perfect symbiosis between tradition and modernity.
The appellation counts:
5 Crus ClassÃ©s (Classified Growths from the 1855 classification)
Around twenty Cru Bourgeois
Around thirty â€˜Hors ClassÃ©sâ€™ (â€˜Unclassifiedâ€™)
1 Cru Artisan
1 cooperative cellar