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Chateau Cos d’Estournel – Decanter Fine Wine Encounter masterclass 2008

St-Emilion 1er GCCBouchard Père & Fils ‘I won’t give you a lecture or a lesson on how great we are or how convinced we are of producing the best wines in the world,’ said a relaxed Jean-Guillaume Prats. ‘Because you know that already.’

It was a bold opening gambit, but one that worked. The assembled guests of yet another packed out Decanter masterclass laughed heartily, and the General Manager of the Bordeaux super-second enthusiastically dived into the wines.

When listening to a Bordeaux estate managers speak, it is often difficult to forget that they are essentially trying to sell their produce: they rarely venture controversial judgements, never disparage their own wines, maintain impeccable courtesy and proffer a heavy joke here and there.

No such platitudes here, and little call for them (it is also very hard to fault these wines). A surprisingly forthright Prats, talking with enthusiasm and confidence made an already enjoyable tasting a memorable one.

However, as the tasting closed with the 2006 Cos blanc – a very impressive new white wine made from Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon in the very northern Medoc, Prats claimed to be apeing Didier Dagueneau. It certainly does on price, at £100 a bottle, but whether it can muscle in on the great man’s Pouilly-Fumés is unlikely.

The ‘blanc’ was a good finish to a spectacular and entertaining masterclass, but one couldn’t help going back over the stellar Grands Vins.


This was the first time the 2006 wines had been shown in the UK, said Jean-Guillaume Prats, affording attendees a glimpse of the wines before their release next year. Prats also wondered, with the current financial climate as it was, whether or not we would see an ‘end to the purely speculative buying’ of Bordeaux wines.

Surprise of the Day

‘I wonder,’ said Prats, ‘whether we wanted to believe 2000 was a great vintage.’ When it came to a comparison of 2000 and 2001 – the latter considered its poorer sibling – Prats said he preferred the 2001. Judging by a show of hands at the end of the masterclass, he was not alone.

Most hotly-debated topic of the class

Was there such a thing as a ‘female’ or ‘male’ wine asked one Decanter reader after Prats said he would buy the Cos ’95 for his wife to drink in a restaurant but drink the ’96 himself at home. There was no conclusive answer.

Memorable quote

‘As you know, we produce the vintage of the century every year in Bordeaux. It happens that every five millenia we produce the vintage of the millenium which was the case in ’05. And sometimes we only produce the vintage of the decade.’ Jean-Guillaume Prats, of Chateau Cos d’Estournel, on vintage variation in Bordeaux.

Tasting notes

Goulée rouge 2005

Quite a colossal deep ruby/purple colour – even the legs on the side of glass were showing a distinct pink hue. On the nose, this wine has deep, young, powerful fruit; it seems a little pushed, veering into wafts of macerated fruit but this is not over-the-top. Quite big and direct, it is also very attractive, seductive and long. Even going back to this wine after the pinnacles of the Grand Vins, this was still showing wonderfully. I was never really convinced of Goulée until this – maybe it’s the vintage? Although expensive for a generic Médoc, it still shows what can be achieved.

Pagodes des Cos 2006

Wonderfully seductive forest fruits, both red and black – similar to a Sirop de Grenadine (Pomegranate, red fruits, vanilla). This is still a young wine, quite tight, showing its tannins. It is well structured but needs a little bit more time in the cellar before it’s ready to drink.

Chateau Cos d’Estournel 2006

A nice deep colour; the nose is closed but promises a good deal with nice, dense black fruit lurking around there. On the palate, the wine is juicy, elegant, fresh, balanced, clean and bight. The tannins are there – as you’d expect – but they are not difficult.

Chateau Cos d’Estournel 2005

As ever with much-lauded wines, so much is talked about 2005 that tasting a wine from this stellar vintage is like trying to walk on shifting sands – am I doing it justice or is the wine somehow not up to it? All great wines should be tasted, initially, blind.

Nonetheless, again this has a lovely deep colour with lifted, quite powerful fruity aromas. The nose has enormous depth. On the palate, again the word enormous looms…well, large. This has huge fruit and is fantastic in its complexity. Initially, I thought the wine was quite short but I think its just beguiling – the tannins are lovely, and there is a wonderful freshness to this wine. Beautiful.

Chateau Cos d’Estournel 2004

This wine has a wonderful, seductive sweet black fruit, heather and peppery aromas. The tannins grip a lot more in this wine but it retains a certain density and fruit, finishing with a nice lift.

Chateau Cos d’Estournel 2003

Interestingly enough, especially when compared to the 2002 and 2001, the colour here is starting to show signs of age. On the nose, it is powerful, dense with black fruits, although there is a hint of raisin and jam. This is a big, powerful, wine. As Jean-Guillaume Prats described, it is ‘flamboyant’. It has good tannins but lacks the freshness you’d normally expect. That doesn’t make it a bad wine – in fact it really breaks out of the heat of the vintage – it just doesn’t quite show that ‘lift’ on the finish.

Chateau Cos d’Estournel 2002

Surprisingly, both the ’02 and ’01 still look youthful. This is perfumed, with nice aromas of violets, although it is a bit foursquare. It lacks some body and still has quite tight tannins. I found a slight hint of curry in this wine, but I don’t wholly buy into the ‘spicy’ aromas that one is supposed to find in Cos – I remain convinced it must be a suggestive thing.

Chateau Cos d’Estournel 2001

Again, a deep and youthful colour. This has lovely black fruit, a slight heather, or even herbal, nose that I love in top Bordeaux. On the palate, this ticks all the boxes with great, juicy fruit, clarity, depth, lift and tannin. This has real ‘breed’, as Serena Sutcliffe MW might say. When I revisited this, it again showed its sheer beauty; it even had slightly savoury hints, remaining wonderfully complex all the way through – even the dregs in the bottom of the glass smelt fantastic. Easily my favourite wine of the tasting.

Chateau Cos d’Estournel 2000

This is starting to show a bit of age on the rim. The nose still seemed a bit shut down, but I managed to find dense, black fruit aromas and a hint of violets. This gave its fruit on the palate, and retained great elegance, but lacked the roundess (‘rondeur’) and beauty of the 2001.

Chateau Cos d’Estournel 1996

Showing development, this has lovely fruit on the nose as well secondary, leathery aromas. It is quite tightly structured but has a wonderful lift and length. Class.

Chateau Cos d’Estournel 1995

This is a lovely, charming, perfumed, fruity wine, with classic Bordeaux development. Jean-Guillaume Prats said this was the more ‘feminine’ of the two older wines, with a supple, gentle, soft structure.

Chateau Cos d’Estournel blanc, 2006

A lovely lemon-gold colour with wonderful herbal Sauvignon Blanc aromas of gooseberry and a touch of freshly-cut grass. With a good body and good structure, this is a very good wine, although it seems to lack a certain sparkle that makes it a ‘great’.

Oliver Styles

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