Château Cos D'Estournel

Born in 1762 during the reign of Louis XV and living until 1853 under the rule of Napoleon III at the remarkable age of 91, Louis Gaspard D’Estournel had one sole passion: Cos. Having inherited a few vines near the village of Cos, he recognized, in 1811, the quality of their wine and decided to vinify them separately. Very rapidly, Cos D’Estournel’s price exceeded that of the most prestigious wines of the day and was exported as far as India and Louis soon became known as “the Maharajah of Saint-Estèphe”.

To celebrate his distant conquests he had exotic pagodas erected above his cellar, organized spectacular festivities at Cos and presented the great and the good of the time with some precious bottles of Cos “Returned From India”. However, in 1852, overwhelmed with debts he had accumulated whilst extending and beautifying his estate, Louis was obliged to sell Cos to a London banker called Martyns. He allowed Louis to remain and live on the land he had so much loved, and he was to die there in 1853, two years before the supreme consecration of his work: the 1855 classification placing Cos D’Estournel at the head of the Saint-Estèphes.

In 1869, Martyns sold Cos D’Estournel to the Errazu, an aristocratic Basque family, who resold it to the Hostein brothers in 1889. In 1917, Cos D’Estournel was purchased by Fernand Ginestet, one of the leading Bordeaux wine merchants. His grandsons Jean-Marie, Yves and Bruno Prats subsequently inherited the château.

Château Cos D’Estournel has belonged to Michel Reybier since 2000. Mr Reybier’s objective has been to uphold the château’s high standards and to constantly strive for excellence, while continuing the avant-garde style initiated by Louis Gaspard D’Estournel.

In the old Gascon language, the word “Cos” means “The Hill of Pebbles”. Not unexpectedly, the hill of Cos, on the banks of the Gironde, is an impressive accumulation of Quaternary gravel wrested from the distant mountains of the Massif Central and the Pyrenees, laid on Saint-Estèphe’s limestone bed when the primeval river receded. Shaped into well drained slopes by erosion, these exceptionally deep layers of gravel are a true geological curiosity and also one of the world’s most precious terroirs, for it forces the old vines to push their roots deep into the arid soil. These extended roots slow down the flow of sap, concentrating the juice and giving the wine of Cos its unique character.

Between Pauillac and Saint-Estèphe, separated from Château Lafite by a stream called La Jalle du Breuil (The Breuil Brook), the hill of Cos dominates the Gironde at a height of almost 65 feet. Bordered to the west by the Atlantic Ocean and to the east by the Gironde, the vineyards of Cos D’Estournel benefit from a distinct micro-climate that acts like a temperature regulator, avoiding any extremes of temperature. The vineyards are spread around the château and cover approximately 91 hectares.

The Cabernet Sauvignon vines (60% of plantings) find the soil of their choice in the thin layers of gravely soil situated on the top and on the southern slopes of the hill. Merlot, on the other hand (40% of the plantings) excels on the eastern slopes and on the slopes where the limestone bedrock of Saint- Estèphe has been forced up to the surface. The final percentages of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the wine varies from one vintage to another, according to the weather pattern of the year in question.

The vines are planted extremely densely at 8,000 to 10,000 vines per hectare, causing the vines to burrow their roots down deep into the poor soil as they compete for nutrients and naturally limiting the yields of grapes. The concentration of flavours that result from this struggle is paired with a concentration resulting from the high average age of the vines - around 35 years. Only the wines from vines over 20 years old will be used for the Château Cos D’Estournel grand vin. Each vine grower is responsible for some 45,000 vines which are all trained, pruned and maintained by hand. The grapes are harvested manually, too, and after being collected in special wooden baskets they are then strictly sorted.
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