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Saint-Estèphe

Saint-Estèphe is one of the many famous wine-growing areas of Bordeaux and gives its name to the red wine appellation AOC Saint-Estèphe. Situated at the northern end of the Haut-Médoc region on the gravelly western shores of the Gironde estuary, Saint-Estèphe is separated from its famous neighbour, Pauillac, only by a stream, yet there are significant differences between them.

Because Saint-Estèphe is marginally further from the gravel-bearing waters of the Garonne river, the soil here is far less stony than that found in the southern part of Haut-Médoc. Instead, a heavy clay base dominates this area, resulting in poorer-draining soils, delayed ripening and higher acidity levels in the wines. These factors mean that Saint-Estèphe's blended wines are predominantly made from Merlot, as it performs better on clay soils than Cabernet Sauvignon. Because these wines are often austere and tight in youth, Merlot also serves to soften the palate.

Although Saint-Estèphe cannot claim to have the much-prized shingle soils of its southern neighbours, growing wine grapes on clay is not without benefits. The water retained in the soil can come in handy during the odd drought-like summers that have been known to bring a Bordeaux vintage to its knees.

The wines from Saint-Estèphe are richly coloured and deeply flavoured, and are known for their longevity. While most of the wine is produced under the Cru Bourgeois label, it is the classed growths that continue to uphold the good reputation of Saint-Estèphe. These include the two second growths, Château Cos d'Estournel and Château Montrose; third-growth Château Calon-Ségur; fourth-growth Château Lafon-Rochet; and fifth-growth Château Cos Labory.
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