Year in, year out, France enjoys its prestigious reputation as the producer of the finest wines in the world. With a wine making history which spans several thousand years and owes its expertise to the Romans, it comes as little surprise that this most highly esteemed of the Old World wine countries continues to impress and enchant both novices and experts to this day. Despite the rise in quality of wines from neighboring European countries, not to mention the New World, the French wine industry continues to boom, with up to eight billion bottles being produced in recent years. However, France prides itself on always putting quality before quantity, and the wide range in fine produce is a testament to the dedication and knowledge of the wineries across the country. Indeed, from rich and complex reds to light and aromatic white wines, French wines are as varied and interesting as they are enjoyable to drink, making this country a firm favorite for wine lovers across the globe.
There are few regions in the world with stricter regulations in regards to wine production and grape varietals than those found in Bordeaux, France. Here, in the home of the world's finest wines, the type and quality of grapes used is of utmost importance, and the legendary wineries which work on the banks of the Gironde river have mastered the careful art of juice blending to find the perfect balance for their produce. Whilst there are six 'official' Bordeaux grapes, the two key varietals for almost every fine Bordeaux wine are Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and with good reason. Whilst Cabernet Sauvignon grapes are renowned for their acidity and astringency, strong fruit and spice flavors and full body, Merlot grapes are notably rounded, soft, fleshy and lighter on tannin. The combination of these two varietals, along with a small percentage of (commonly) Petit Verdot or Cabernet Franc, is the perfect balancing act – the two grape varietals cancel out each others weaker points, and accentuate all that is good about the other.
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.