Book Review: David Copp – Bordeaux, Saint Estephe – The Wines of a Great Commune

I thoroughly enjoyed reading David Copp’s latest book and highly recommend it to lovers of Bordeaux wines. The book ‘Bordeaux St Estephe: The Wines of A Great Commune’ focuses on St Estephe in detail and is a treasure trove of information for both the wine connoisseur and the amateur wine enthusiast.

David Copp is a wine writer and journalist who trained in the wine trade in Bordeaux, Burgundy, Champagne, Rhine and Moselle and won a WSET scholarship to study Sherry in Jerez de la Frontera. With 20 years experience in the UK wine and spirit trade he has a wealth of experience and insider knowledge. A frequent visitor to St Estephe over the last 50 years David Copp reckons that this appellation offers “some of the best value-for-money wines that claret enthusiasts can buy.”

St Estephe is the most northern appellation of the Médoc. It sits on the left bank of the Garonne and is the closest appellation to the mouth of the River Gironde, where it joins the Atlantic Sea.

David Copp takes his readers through the background of Saint Estephe in the first few chapters of his book including the history of Bordeaux; the climate, soil and grapes of St Estephe, wine making techniques and advances and the recent vintages of 2009 and 2010. His style is straight forward, informative and is packed with insights which gives a good flavour of how the appellation developed and what it now stands for. As he says:

There are now some 55 chateaux in the commune. Many of them are owned by sophisticated wine producers from elsewhere, attracted by the uniqueness of the terroir and the more reasonable cost of land compared with Pauillac, Saint Julien and Margaux.

They have invested heavily in soil analysis, replanting, in new winery equipment and have brought in fresh wine making talent and experience. The results have been spectacular. Perhaps the strongest reason for re-appraising Saint Estephe is that as the cost of classified growth wines has escalated in response to world demand, the real claret enthusiast can find outstanding value-for-money wines from properties that share similar climate and soil conditions.”

The heart of the book has an invaluable review of 45 chateaux from the appellation; from their history to their current wine making and vineyard practices. These often include accounts from his interviews with the personalities behind the scenes – the vintners and oenologists – as well as his own notes from vertical tastings. This is a wonderful piece of work which really opens your eyes to the potential of sometimes over looked and under valued chateaux in Saint Estephe.

To conclude David Copp assesses the future for wine in Bordeaux and Saint Estephe in particular. His arguments are convincing and to my mind eminently sensible. In his opinion “St Estephe has strengthened its position by investing in its terroir and its wineries, by attracting talented wine makers and producing classical style wines at affordable prices . . . The UK, with its long association with Bordeaux, provides a clear cut opportunity for the better value-for-money St Estephe wines.”

This is a book that I will refer to again and again – the amount of detail you find at your finger tips is a real eye opener and I found the book a fascinating read. If you are interested in buying a copy the book is soon to appear on and is published by Inform & Enlighten Ltd, 47 Fontmell Close, St Albans, AL3 5HU. I must also thank Peter May from the Pinotage Club for drawing my attention to it!

Wine enthusiasts may also be interested in other books that David Copp has written:

  • Hungary: Its Fine wines and Winemakers
  • Tokaj: A Companion for the Bibulous Traveler
  • Australian Wine Walkabout: Notes from Visits to Australian Fine Winemakers

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