Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Cabernet Franc make up the red grape "trio" of Bordeaux. Petit Verdot and Malbec grape varieties are also used in lesser proportions. As soon as the grapes are harvested, the juice ferments with the grape skins; this gives the wine its color and tannins. After several weeks in vats (or barrels), wines made from different grape varieties are blended. The wine is then aged in vats or oak barrels for months or even years.
Bordeaux red wines should ideally be served at 61°-65°F. Given their good balance of alcohol, tannin and acidity, these wines are perfect to enjoy with all kinds of food: Medoc and Graves pair well with red meats and roasts; Saint-Emilion, Pomerol and Fronsac wines pair well with white meats, poultry, game and even fish; Bordeaux, Bordeaux Superieur and Cotes de Bordeaux wines are ideal matches for grilled meats, pasta and even more exotic "fusion" dishes.
St Estephe is the largest producer of the Haut-Medoc appellations, situated at its northernmost tip.
St Estephe has traditionally produced robust, solid wines, full of flavour that can need many years to soften and mature. In the last 30 years, a move towards using more of the softer Merlot grape and some changes in the wine-making process have produced some slightly lighter wines that can mature earlier, whilst still maintaining the substance and structure of this wine. However, the wines from this region still retain the big, well-structured and full characteristics of a St Estephe. Although only 5 St Estephe wines were ranked as a Classified growth in the 1855 classification, nowadays there are numerous Cru Bourgeois Chateaux producing superb wine, rivalling the quality of many Medoc classified growths. These wines are often excellent value for the consumer who enjoys a full, rich wine. Those having the patience to wait for these wines to mature are extremely well rewarded.
St Estephe is the closest to the mouth of the river, the Gironde, joining the Atlantic Sea and has less gravel, and more clay, than upstream towards Margaux. This heavier soil drains more slowly, which leads to full, robust wines with a reasonably high acidity. St Estephes excel in hot and dry years when vines in regions with lighter solid may suffer from the excessive heat. St Estephe offers many exciting, stylish and substantial wines, especially from the host of Cru Bourgeois Chateaux which can offer great value.