Pleasure / October 2015

Rebel with a Cos: Chateau Cos d'Estournel

From the legend of its very founding to its iconoclastic architecture, nothing about Chateau Cos d’Estournel has ever been conformist.

If you can picture it, the setting is a cross between A Passage to India and Dr. No. That said, rest assured that it is most resolutely the antithesis of naff. In fact, it's the apogee of impactful and communicative design.

No, this is not the Hollywood blockbuster set of some personage amped on hallucinogens. It is the inimitable, one-of-a-kind and gobsmackingly opulent Château Cos d'Estournel, a setting oft-cited as the most remarkable of all the famous Bordeaux 'Super Seconds' wineries.

Reams of oenophile analysis have been dedicated to un terroir d'exception that is the hill of Cos on the banks of the Gironde, and with good reason. The word 'cos' is likely derived from 'caux' in the old Gascon tongue, itself derivative of colline de cailloux, which means 'hill of pebbles'. In this case, it's an accumulation of Quaternary Period gravel originally from the Pyrenees and Massif Central deposited by the receding primeval river over the limestone bed of Saint-Estèphe. Besides being a geological wonder, the remarkably deep pebble layer forces old vines planted atop to push their roots way down through the arid layer, striving to imbibe from the precious water reserves of the aquifer residing at the staggering depth of some 19m.

The vines tell a story mirroring that of Louis Gaspard d'Estournel, the flamboyant maverick behind Château Cos d'Estournel. After inheriting some vines near the village of Cos in 1811, he recognised their quality and decided to vinify them separately. Realising that he'd come into an exceptional terroir, he made it his mission to acquire, gradually, the whole of the hill.

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Joycelyn Shu