The undisputed flagship of Saint-Estèphe. This is no traditional château, but a riot of extravagant pagodas which house the cellars. They were inspired by the original owner, Louis Gaspard d’Estournel’s love of the Orient, and it was he who, from 1811, developed the vineyards and property.
The insistence on quality led to the château’s burgeoning reputation in the first half of the 19th century and eventual classification as a second-growth. Sadly, these efforts, and d’Estournel’s financial outlay took their toll, and he was forced to sell Cos in 1852, just a year before his death.
The property changed hands many times in the subsequent years until Fernand Ginestet of the important Ginestet family dynasty of Bordeaux took over in 1917. The acquisition began a much-needed period of stability which has endured to the present day. In 2000 Cos was acquired by the current owner, Michel Reybier who made his fortune in the French food industry. The Ginestet family is still involved with Jean-Guillaume Prats (great-grandson of Fernand Ginestet) having succeeded his father Bruno Prats as general manager, continuing the exceptional standards of previous decades under their watchful management.
The vineyards which produce highly concentrated fruit lie to the south of the commune on the border with Pauillac. In the ancient language of Gascon cos means ‘hill of pebbles’ which goes some way to describing the terroir. The vines are for the most part rooted in fine, gravely soils although a geological study has showed huge variations throughout the property which have influenced the plantings of grapes. Traditionally there was a high proportion of merlot in the blend (up to 40%) but in recent years a greater proportion of cabernet sauvignon has been used in the grand vin (up to 85%) with more merlot increasingly associated with the second wine, the aptly-named, Les Pagodes de Cos. More cabernet in the grand vin has led to an even fuller, robust and opulent style.
There has been significant investment and constant re-examination of practices here which has served to keep Cos at the top of its game as a ‘super-second’. In 2008 a gleaming new winery was inaugurated allowing ever-more sophisticated vinification methods. The use of oak has always been a topic of much discussion with around 80% new oak used on average since 2000, adding to the opulence of the already sumptuous blend.