Cos d'Estournel, Saint-Estèphe's 'super-second' growth, is the most recent château in Bordeaux to adopt a gravity-feed system for its grapes.

The system has the great advantage of controlling extraction by not bruising and mashing the grapes, thus not releasing bitter tannins. It also saves time and improves hygiene.

Instead of powerful pumps and pipes, the grapes are tipped into a mobile mini-vat, raised to the upper level by means of a hoist and directed along a steel runner to the appropriate vat. Similarly, the traditional practice of pumping over has been replaced by stirring the fermenting must inside the vat.

‘I have been planning to introduce a gravity-feed system for our vat-room for three years now,’ Jean-Guillaume Prats, manager of Cos, told decanter.com ‘Meticulous care is taken with the vines and the grapes out in the vineyard. The idea is simply to protect the fruit right into the vat.’

The project is being handled by architects AB Concept, the firm which is re-structuring Margaux second growth Château Lascombes at the request of the new owners, the Californian pension fund Colonna.

In addition, two new barrel stores are being designed, a ‘warm’ room (kept at 20-22 degrees centigrade) for malo-lactic fermentation in the barrel and a ‘cool’ room (at 17-18 degrees) for ageing.

Alain Monteil of AB Concept said, ‘Wines from other parts are improving all the time. Bordeaux must continue to use every technique available in order to maintain supremacy.’

Written by Alan Spencer in Bordeaux