The northernmost of the six communal vineyards of the Haut-Médoc, Saint-Estèphe produces wines of a particularly complex nature. They are affected not just by their proximity to the river, but also by the Atlantic.
Because of its distance from Bordeaux, Saint-Estèphe was the last corner of the Haut-Médoc to be conquered by top-class winegrowing. Many brands were only created here in the 19th century, which is why there are only five classified top estates here, together with 40 or so that also produce high-quality wines but are unclassified.
As in Margaux, crests of deep gravel intermingle with soils of quartz, loam and limestone – but the Atlantic influence is more dominant here than in the municipality further south. Also the Gironde acts as a balancing factor in vineyards near the river.
Because of the special structure of the terroir, Merlot often accounts for up to 50% of an assemblage – though for only 40% of the vineyard area. It is supplemented by 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and a little Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
Saint-Estèphe lacks a uniform style. Wines from soils of poor gravel near the river turn out pithy and powerful like a Pauillac, other estates cultivate a style close to that of a Margaux, with particularly elegant, supple and fragrant wines, and the bulk of the unclassified brands are robust, spicy and broad-shouldered.
Best age for drinking
6-15 years for basic wines and vintages,10-30 years for top wines and vintages.