Timeless Passion in Saint-Estèphe

Today’s Story: Cos d’Estournel

Cos d’Estournel is a historic winery located in the Saint-Estèphe appellation of Bordeaux. The estate is also one of fifteen Deuxièmes Crus (Second Growths) noted in the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. Its founder, Louis Gaspard d’Estournel, inherited Cos in 1791 and became immediately convinced that the hill of Cos consisted of exceptional terroir. Without wasting any time, d’Estournel started purchasing neighboring vineyard land to expand his estate from 14 hectares to 45 and implemented many innovative processes to produce magnificent wines. In 1810, the estate received its current name of Cos d’Estournel.

Louis Gaspard d’Estournel was a nonconformist when it came to his vineyards and marketing his wine. For instance, he would typically travel broadly to faraway and unknown places with his wines to introduce them to the world. He even used to sign every bottle by hand to portray not only his dedication but his belief that his wines were some of the best in the world. Interestingly, any wine he didn’t sell while traveling would come back to the estate to be opened and tasted, with these bottles labeled “R” for “Retour des Indes” or “Returned from India.”

Though ownership changed multiple times over the years, the current steward of the estate shares a similar drive for innovation and dedication to d’Estournel. Michel Reybier purchased Cos d’Estournel in 2000 and I believe (based on some of his commentary) this decision was largely due to the emotional attachment he felt to the history and physical presence of the estate. Much like d’Estournel, Michel’s passion for Cos is extreme and he is incredibly active year-round at the estate and in its business dealings. Further, Michel seeks to strike a balance between innovation and tradition, many times in nonconformist manners yet again. Under his ownership, the estate invested dramatically in a complete overhaul of the winery and château by introducing state-of-the-art facilities and equipment while transitioning to a gravity flow winery. The wine I am reviewing today is the first vintage (2008) produced in the brand new winery.

Geography and production facts: Cos d’Estournel today consists of 100 hectares, though vineyard land accounts for only 70 hectares. The vineyards are broken into 30 parcels with 60% planted to Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% to Merlot with small areas of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Annual production is typically about 32,000 cases.

Fun fact: Cos d’Estournel’s neighbor just to the south is the famous Château Lafite Rothschild, one of the original First Growths. Lafite, of course, is in the Pauillac appellation.

Today’s Wine: 2008 Cos d’Estournel

85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 13% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc; 13.8% ABV

I’ve enjoyed several vintages of Cos d’Estournel over the years, each of them being delightful, though this is my first time trying the 2008. Cos typically blends with more Merlot, so this vintage is interesting particularly due to its high percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon. The wine is deep, opaque ruby in color. I let this decant because it is still quite young and certainly needed time to open up. The nose showcases aromas of black plum, blackcurrant, black cherry, graphite, pencil shaving, tobacco, black pepper, and a hint of vanilla. Once in the mouth, I get notes of blackberry, plum, granite, iron, green herbs, smoke, sweet tobacco, and oak. This Cos is full-bodied with high acidity, high yet still refined tannins, and a long finish. An interesting note is that this is the first vintage produced in the new winery facilities at Cos.

Price: $160. Compared to First Growths I think Cos consistently delivers great value if you’re looking at Bordeaux. Definitely give this one a try if you haven’t already. Pair this with steak, a burger, or an assortment of charcuterie and cheeses.

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