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St-Julien


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Ducru Beaucaillou

The Château Ducru-Beaucaillou label. Photo by Ernesto Andrade. License: Creative Commons SA 2.0 Generic.

Saint-Julien-Beychevelle, usually abbreviated as Saint-Julien or St-Julien, is a 6.3 square mile village in the Médoc known for its production of remarkably full-bodied Bordeaux blends. Less than 800 people live in the entire commune, and it is highly likely that the great majority of them are somehow involved in the wine business.

St-Julien is not packed as densely with vineyards and châteaux as the other villages, but it contains a great deal of wineries on many different levels of expense and quality. The wine, although it of course varies greatly from château to château, generally is very full-bodied. St-Julien's distinction is the unusual woody flavor that comes through after many years of aging, often compared to cedar or old cigar boxes.

Chateau Talbot label

A label of Château Talbot.
This photo is in the public domain.

History

There is little to differentiate St-Julien's early history from that of the Médoc itself, and of the other three villages within the Médoc. For years it was undistinguished marshland, but became almost immediately popular when clever winemakers discovered the excellent climate there. It thrived during the 1700s and 1800s, and survived the wine industry's periodic lulls due to its Bordeaux magic.

Like its fellow Médoc villages, it was granted AOC status in 1936. The region has gained popularity due to the ageability of its wine, and the rewarding flavors attained after years of cellaring.

Climate and Viticulture

St-Julien's gravel banks, like those of Pauillac, give the tannins and body an intense and powerful flavor that nevertheless fails to cover up the strong aromas of the wine. These wines are sternly structured, but after an apt amount of time aging, they are rarely too austere for people to drink. In other words, they make a good balance.

Of course, the weather and climate in St-Julien is very similar to that of the other Médoc villages. There are many different kinds of rock in the soil, which accounts for the wine's varied, often eccentric flavors. Some châteaux produce a lighter and more aromatic style, usually from terroirs where the gravel is not so prominent.

Grape Varieties

Only one château in St-Julien, Gruaud-Larose, is known to commonly use a small percentage of Malbec. Most others use none at all. Carménère is nearly completely run out of this village. The main four grapes are the same as in the Médoc in general, but the blends show more variety and creativity than in some of the other villages.

Major Producers

St-Julien has no first growths, and as a result the wines are not nearly as highly reputed as Pauillac or Margaux. However, for everyone but the most exacting and/or snobbish wine buyers, the region is still quite acceptable. Quality of the crus is also elevated by the fact that no 5ers crus exist in St-Julien. Among nonclassified wines, Château Gloria is perhaps the best, producing light, soft-spoken wine of a more Margauxesque nature.

Five of the 14 2ers crus are from St-Julien. All of them are solid and more affordable than wines of neighboring Margaux and Pauillac, but the difference in flavor can be striking.

Two out of 14 3ers crus are from St-Julien.

Branaire-Ducru

Château Branaire-Ducru.
This photo is in the public domain.

Four of the ten 4ers crus are from St-Julien.

Subregions

St-Julien is small enough so that at this point, subregions are almost entirely inconsequential. St-Julien is a common enough name that confusion or deception could easily occur. As a result, wine buyers should only buy bottles of wine labeled as St-Julien from Bordeaux, France. Any specific parts of St-Julien matter only in a historical or trivial context.

Leoville Las Cases label from 1911

Wines from St-Julien typically age very well. This 1911 is probably well past its period of drinkability, but the best vintages can often last 40 years or more.
Photo by BerndB on Wikipedia. License: Creative Commons SA 3.0 Unported.