St.-Estèphe is the northernmost of the communes hugging the Dordogne river in the Northern Haut-Médoc. While the
appellation has no premier crus (first growths) of its own, it's southernmost chateau, Cos d'Estournel, is a second
growth, and separated from famed Lafite-Rothschild in "Pauillac
by only a stream. Some years Cos d'Estournel
produces wine of a first growth level.
Wine from St-Estèphe typically matures more slowly than its southern counterparts. The soil is heavy and rich with
clay, leading to wines with firm tannins and high acidity. Dark and opaque in color, the wines can be a bit austere
in their youth and most get better as they age. Cabernet Sauvignon
is the primary grape in most of the region's blends,
although Merlotis important in helping to soften
the wines. St-Estèphe creates the most wines of the top four Haut-Médoc
communes. There are lots of Cru Bourgeois, which are more approachable when young – and, even better, lower in price.
To get a feel for St-Estèphe and a lower price, look for Cru Bourgeois like Chateau Haut-Beauséjour.