Jean-Charles Cazes' operation in St Estephe continues to go from strength to strength. Produced from 46% Cabernet Sauvignon, 44% Merlot, 8% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot, this is another very polished effort. Inky, perfumed, seductive purple fruit, spice and fruits of the forest. The palate is awash with ripe berries and gravelly notes. This is real claret with plenty of stuffing and energy and is sure to be one of the best value buys from the Medoc.
Owned by the Cazes family of Lynch Bages fame, this estate has improved dramatically over the last decade. Older wines were solidly made, hearty clarets, which seem to age well, but are a bit more inconsistent and lack the precision of recent vintages. The progress is in no small part down to the technical know-how and ambition of the Lynch wine-making team. Greater diligence and more natural farming practices in the vineyards, combined with meticulous winemaking and greater use of new oak during elevage has resulted in young wines that bear the hall marks of its sister Chateau in Pauillac. Consequently, young vintages of Ormes de Pez offer some of the best value to be found in the Medoc.
The vineyards are situated in the north of the St Estephe commune on the Médoc peninsula, close to the Gironde Estuary and the Atlantic Ocean. The 35 hectares are planted with 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. The Cabernets flourish on the gravelly parcels composed of quartz and rolled pebbles, while the Merlot are best suited to the cooler, sandy/clay terroirs.
A part of St-Estèphe is separated from Pauillac's Lafite only by a stream.Though St-Estèphe contains some gravel, it is largely renowned for the high clay content of its soils compared with other vineyards on the left bank. These wetter cooler soils favour the Merlot, hence the relatively large proportion of plantings compared neighbouring communes, though Cabernet Sauvignon dominates. The cool soils means the grapes are later ripeing and tend to have high acidities, archetypal St Estèphe is a strong-willed, tannic structured wine to be laid down. The stars of St-Estèphe are Montrose, Cos d’Estournel and Calon-Segur, whilst Haut Marbuzet and Lafon Rochet have been producing excellent value wines over the last few years.