Saint-Julien is one of the most famous red wines of the Bordeaux region.
The wine region
The area of the Appellation Contrôlée comprises the vineyards of the commune of Saint-Julien-Beychevelle in the Médoc that are suitable for quality winegrowing. It is located about 10 km north of Margaux on the Gironde and borders directly on Pauillac to the north. With an extension of 3.5 by 4 km, it has an almost square shape. The area under cultivation is 910 ha.
The Saint-Julien is a powerful and complex red wine. In its youth, it often appears austere because of its high tannin content, only a longer maturation period of at least 5 years in the cellar brings it to develop. Its character is a synthesis between the power of Pauillac and the finesse of Margaux.
The eleven Grands Crus Classés account for 75% of the vineyard area. Their share is thus higher than in all other communal appellations of the Médoc. This fact gives Saint-Julien its qualitative homogeneity. The most famous châteaux are:
- Château Beychevelle
- Château Branaire-Ducru
- Château Ducru-Beaucaillou
- Château Gruaud-Larose
- Château Lagrange
- Château Langoa-Barton
- Château Léoville-las-Cases
- Château Léoville-Poyferré
- Château Léoville-Barton
- Château Saint-Pierre
- Château Talbot
Soil and climate
Quality viticulture is limited to the gravelly sand soils created during the Ice Age. The sites closest to the Gironde, with their large pebbles, are best suited to Cabernet Sauvignon. To the west of the commune, the soil is sandier and more suited to Merlot. From south to north, the soil becomes loamier, which gives the wines more body.
The climate is strongly influenced by the Atlantic, with warm summers and mild, humid winters. The quality of a vintage is usually decided in autumn. For full ripeness, the grapes need sunny weather until well into October. The proximity of the Gironde has a balancing effect on the microclimate. It protects against late frosts, but also moderates the summer heat.
Grape varieties and vinification
The Cabernet Sauvignon dominates the vineyard. Its share in the Crus Classés is usually 65 to 70 %. Merlot accounts for about 20 %, the rest is shared by the grape varieties Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The yields are between 45 and 55 hl/ha.
The vinification follows the classic Bordeaux model: two to three weeks of maceration, followed by 18-24 months of aging in barriques, 225-liter oak barrels that are usually renewed halfway through. In the Grand Vin, only the wine from the best lots that fit the style of a Château is used. The rest, as well as the yield of young vineyards, is bottled by the châteaus as second vin.
- Hubrecht Duijker, Michael Broadbent: Wine Atlas Bordeaux. Hallwag, Bern/Stuttgart 1997, ISBN 3-444-10492-8
- Michel Dovaz: Bordeaux. Terre de légende. Assouline, Paris 1997, ISBN 2-84323-024-1
- Féret: Bordeaux et ses vins. Féret, Bordeaux 2000, ISBN 2-902416-17-2
- René Gabriel: Bordeaux Total. Orell Füssli, Zurich 2004, ISBN 3-280-05114-2