The unusual Cos D’Estournel lies just north of the Château Lafite-Rothschild in the famous Médoc district of Bordeaux, and in its own right produces arguably the finest grapes grown in the Saint Estèphe commune. However, it is not the quality of the wine or the grapes that is the subject here, rather the story behind the usual structure of Cos D’Estournel, which resembles something of an oriental pagoda.
Louis Gaspard d’Estournel inherited his family’s vineyard in 1791, extending it my acquiring neighbouring vineyards, and planted new vines, in order to make the finest red wines which were being produced from the Cabernet and Merlot vines at the nearby Château Lafite. He was much praised for his vintages which were sort out by the aristocracy, and his wealth enabled him to travel so frequently to the Orient, that he began to be called a maharaja. He truly fell in love with the cultures in the Far East and came to believe that if he took his wines to India and brought them home, the would be endowed with a special quality and provenance.
He also decided to build a mansion in the architectural style of Bagan, Buddhist and other Asian styles which were all topped with ornate pagodas. The almost Forbidden City arched entry to the Château bears the d’Estournel family coat of arms, and he placed a statue of an elephant in the courtyard.
However, as alluring as the Château was, d’Estournel’s expensive travels as well as this massive building project landed him in such serious financial difficulties that he was forced to see the estate in 1853 to London banker Cecil Martyns. Unfortunately for d’Estournel, it was premature, as only two years later at the 1855 Paris Exhibition Château d’Estournel was awarded a very prestigious Grand Cru Second Growth decree, which made the estate far more valuable than it had been when he sold it.