The glamorous winery of Chateau Cos d’Estournel
My last visit to a winery in Bordeaux was at Chateau Cos d’Estournel in Saint-Estephe on June 24th for 15:30. I missed the correct route leaving from Pontet Canet in Pauillac to St-Estephe, so I arrived at Cos 15 minutes later than scheduled. The guide gave me a quicker than normal tour of the property as the next group – a group of Chinese as I discovered later on – scheduled for 16:00 was about to arrive. However, there was no rush on tasting the wines.
Cos d’Estournel took its modern form after 1811, when Louis d’Estournel developed the estate and expanded its vineyards. The design of the winery was built to remind him of the time he had spent as a trader in the Far East. In 1852 the property was sold to English bankers, who continued to invest in the estate. At this time the wine sold for prices higher than almost all Second Growths. In 1889 the Charmolue family, which would also acquire Montrose a few years later, bought Cos, before selling it in 1917 to Fernand Ginestet. His daughter Arlette married into the Prats family, which is how, in 1971 , it came into the hands of Bruno Prats. In 1998 Prats sold Cos to the Taillan group(owners of Gruaud Larose and many other properties) and some Argentinian investors. In 2000 the property was sold to Michel Reybier, a French food manufacturer. After the departure of Bruno Prats his son, Jean-Guillaume, stayed on as a general manager of the domain. Since 2004 the technical director has been Dominique Arangoits, who in his time has made wine in Tokaj. Currently Bruno Prats has wineries and produces wines in Spain in Priorat(was one of the pioneers of Priorat), Portugal, South Africa and other countries.
Some would argue that Cos d’Estournel is closer in style to Pauillac than St-Estephe. It is certainly true that the vineyards share a long boundary with Chateau Lafite. The soil is very gravelly and there is less clay than at most St-Estephe properties. The drainage is excellent and it is the sand mixed in with the gravel that helps retain water to keep hydric stress at bay in hot summers. There is also a high proportion of Merlot planted, which is not the case at most Pauillac properties. The vineyards hug the chateau, except for a parcel belonging to its neighbor Cos-Labory. Cabernet Sauvignon is planted on higher ground, Merlot lower down. The average age of the vines is 35 years old, while some parcels are over 70 years old. Yields range around 40-45 hl/ha. There are 64 ha under vines and the grapes are 58% Cabernet Sauvignon, 38% Merlot, 2% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc. The wine is aged for 18 months in new French oak, the proportion of new oak varies considerably depending on the vintage. Cos is fined in the barrel, but is no longer filtered before bottling.
The winery and cellar of Cos d’Estournel are breathtakingly beautiful. The owners recently invested about Eur 30 Millions in state of the art technology and rebuilt the winery. They added custom made temperature controlled stainless-steel vats in an attempt to vinify separately as many parcels as possible for a better control of the final blend, a barrel aging room with a cat-walk like bridge that goes on top of the oak barrels and leads to the wine library containing older vintages of Cos – some of the oldest are from early 1800, and a tasting room with clear Indian influences that can compete with any smart fusion lounge in the world.
After the tour of the winery, we returned back to the tasting room where I had the chance to taste three of their wines: 2010 Chateau Cos d’estournel, 2010 Pagodes de Cos – Cos second wine, and 2010 Goulee by Cos d’Estournel – a northern Medoc made wine.
2010 Goulee by Cos d’Estournel
Blend of 80% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Merlot. Average yield for the vintage: 30 hl/ha. 13.74% alcohol.
Red garnet color and the least colored of all three wines tasted. A spicy nose with plenty of red fruit, with an interesting complexity given by additional aromas of musk and bacon fat. Really nice nose. Medium plus bodied, with good tannins structure, charming palate and a medium chocolatey finish. Very approachable already. (91-92/100)
2010 Pagodes de Cos
Blend of 62% Cabernet Sauvignon and 38% Merlot. Proportion of first and second wine: 55% Cos d’Estournel and 45% Pagodes de Cos. Average yield for the vintage: 38 hl/ha. 14.13% alc.
Dark red-purple color. A tighter nose than the Goulee, with good Cabernet like flavors on the palate: rich blackcurrant, spices and coffee aromas, good mouth-feel and a medium plus finish with nice flavors of chocolate, black tea and mint. (91-92/100)
2010 Chateau Cos d’Estournel
Blend of 78% Cab Sauv, 19% Merlot, 2% Cab Franc and 1% Petit Verdot. It is said that they use Petit Verdot only in the best vintages. 14.5% alc
Deep dark purple color and the thickest texture of the three. A very elegant nose already, with complex aromas of mint, spices, red currant and coffee bean. Full bodied, rich and dense on the palate, with solid ripe tannins, well structured and balanced, with ample fruit, showing great freshness and good minerality. A very long finish with intense aromas of fruit, black tea, chocolate and coffee. A wine with depth and freshness. (96-98/100)
I have to say that of all the wineries I have seen in Bordeaux during my 3 days trip, Cos was the most impressive. This was my last trip to a domain for FRI, after making a marathon from one Chateau to another, from Saint Julien to Pauillac and then St-Estephe, visiting and tasting the wines. This was overall an unexpectedly rewarding trip for me and I am certainly looking forward to return to Bordeaux as soon as possible.