Produced from 50% Merlot, 49% Cabernet Sauvignon and 1% Cabernet Franc and aged in 40% new oak barrels, the Petit Bocq 2011 is a great effort in what proved to be a challenging vintage. Not only did St Estephe have to contend with an unusual growing season, but hail devastated large parcels of vines at the south of the commune near to Cos d'Estournel. The team admitted that in an ideal world they would have liked to wait a week or two longer before harvesting some Merlot plots, but those affected by hail were brought in on the 7th of September. Harvesting continued until the 26th of September. As the vineyards are not in one block, much of the crop went unscathed and the wine speaks of healthy berry fruit, savoury notes and mocha. There's good fruit extract and one is left with lots of bright, pure fruit. Good honest Claret.
The Lagneaux family own eight hectares of land in St Estèphe spread over five plots, the majority of which come from a vineyard abutting Château Haut-Marbuzet. Viticulture and vinification are controlled by Dr Gaëtan Lagneaux who is ably assisted by Pascal Berteau. Unusually, even for a St Estèphe château, Merlot comprises almost 70% of the vineyard area, the rest is planted with Cabernet Sauvignon. This is an invaluable statistic for the Lagneaux family as the early ripening Merlot is often harvested well before the all too frequent Médoc harvest rains. Any unhealthy or poor quality grapes are discarded, whilst the rest are vinified parcel by parcel and then spend a year in oak barrels, half of which are new. Dr Lagneaux’ wines are always well structured and full of plump berry and blackcurrant flavour. However, it is above all their purity and vivacity that make them so striking.
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.