St. Julien Bordeaux Wine Guide with a history of the St. Julien appellation, a look at the character and style of the wines, top ten facts about St. Julien, producer and chateaux listings with links to pages on every important property in the St. Julien, Bordeaux wine region with wine tasting notes, histories of the properties, images, tips for the best wine and food pairing ideas for the wines of St. Julien, technical information and Bordeaux wine buying tips from all the best wines and chateau in the Saint Julien appellation.
If you want to read about other Bordeaux wine producers in different Bordeaux appellations: Links to all Bordeaux Wine Producer Profiles If you are interested in learning more about Bordeaux wine, we offer numerous articles on everything about Bordeaux wine, from a history of the Bordeaux region and the famous 1855 Classification, the grapes used to produce Bordeaux wine and even vintage summaries, covering Bordeaux wine from 1900 to today: All About Bordeaux Wine Guide
The best Chateau, wines, vineyards and producers in St. Julien: The links located to the left of the page lead to the best St. Julien wines and their producers. You can read wine tasting notes, detailed profiles and histories of the top St. Julien estates, details on the wines, their character and style, wine making, soils and other important information, as well as view images of the following top Bordeaux value wine producers from the Saint Julien appellation:
Overview of the St. Julien appellation: St.Julien is the smallest of the major Bordeaux appellations in the Medoc with 910 hectares under vine. On average, 450,000 cases of wine are produced each year in Saint Julien. But it’s important to keep in mind, great things come in small packages. As far as classified growths in the Medoc goes, the St. Julien appellation has the highest ratio of classified terroir of any Bordeaux region. In fact, close to 85% of the vineyards in Saint Julien consist of classified terroir!
Character and style of St. Julien wine: Saint Julien produces a myriad of different styles of Bordeaux wine in the Left Bank of Bordeaux. They can be powerful, tannic and even masculine, which is what you find at Chateau Leoville Las Cases or the more traditionally made Chateau Leoville Barton. Some of the wines from Saint Julien can be easily confused with Bordeaux wine from Pauillac, which is easy to understand as Pauillac and St. Julien are only a vine away on the northern side of St. Julien. Other Bordeaux wine from St. Julien are on the elegant, refined side of the style of range like Branaire Ducru. There are Saint Julien estates that are able to majestically pair concentration with elegance and purity like the wines found at Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou. Some chateaux remain traditional in their wine making, while others lean to a more modern approach, like St. Pierre. There are early drinking wines like Gloria and wines that demand decades in the cellar.
Terroir and soil of St. Julien: The diverse array of wines and styles in the St. Julien appellation has as much to do with the wine makers and growers as it does with the terroir. The St. Julien appellation has a terroir that offers soils with a mix of gravel, sand and clay, as well as a wide variety of rocks and stones. The gravel is a huge part of what make the wines of St. Julien so great. The gravel helps provide natural drainage, reflect sunlight, warmth and heat to the vines and allows the vines to delve deep into the soils. The gravel also helps provide natural drainage. The best vineyards have access to the Gironde river, which helps create a micro climate. To get an idea on how the soil and terroir of Saint Julien compares to the other important appellations in Bordeaux; The terroir and soil of Bordeaux
Interestingly, because some land was owned by Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou and Chateau Beychevelle in the commune of Cussac in the Haut Medoc appellation at the time of the 1855 classification, 38 hectares of vines from Haut Medoc are allowed to be classified as coming from St. Julien. This has been a source of irritation to other growers in Cussac that continually demand their vines become part of the Saint Julien appellation. The growers must declare before picking if their vines will be sold as St. Julien or Haut Medoc. Taking a wild guess, I’m not thinking these have even been sold as an Haut Medoc!
The grapes of St. Julien: The gravel based Bordeaux vineyards of St. Julien are perfect for Cabernet Sauvignon. While all five of the major Bordeaux grape varietals are planted in St. Julien, like most of the Medoc, Cabernet Sauvignon is king, followed by Merlot, which plays an important and very necessary supporting role. Lesser plantings of Petit Verdot, Cabernet Franc and Malbec can also be found.
St. Julien with wine and food pairings: There is something for every Bordeaux wine lover in the St. Julien appellation. The wines, in their diverse array of styles and personalities offer a multitude of wine and food pairing ideas. The wines of Saint Julien evolve with time and develop complex notes of smoke, earth, tobacco and truffle. Those characteristics create great wine and food pairings. Like many red Bordeaux wines, the wine of St. Julien is perfect with lamb, duck, game, chicken and rare, grilled beef. St. Julien wines also pair well with most roasted, braised or grilled meats and dishes with earthy flavors like mushroom and truffles. Depending on the preparations, the wines of St. Julien can be enjoyed with a myriad of seafood dishes. St. Julien wines are perfect with several types of soft and hard cheese.
Classification of St. Julien: While there are no First Growths to be found here, St. Julien is rich in the category of Super Seconds. St. Julien boasts 5 Second Growths, 2 Third Growths and 4 Fourth Growth chateaux. St. Julien has never been more exiting than it is today! Numerous estates are battling it out, trying to produce the best wine possible. The consumer is the clear winner as Leoville Poyferre strives to best Leoville Las Cases and Leoville Barton. Chateau Ducru Beaucaillou tries to be better than all of them, and since the 2005 vintage, at least in this writers opinion has succeeded! Chateau Branaire Ducru is making wine well above its classification as well. Following the 2008 vintage, Chateau Saint-Pierre has clearly upped their game making very good wine on a consistent basis. Only 6 Cru Bourgeois classified chateau come from the St. Julien appellation of which Chateau Gloria and Chateau du Glana are easily the best of them. In fact, there are vintages when Chateau Gloria has made better wine than you can find at some of the better known Classified estates!
History of St. Julien: Saint Julien first became famous for its Bordeaux wine back in the 17th century. At the time St. Julien was developing as a major, Bordeaux wine producing appellation in the Left Bank, the entire area of the Medoc was being discovered, populated and planted by wealthy aristocrats. Coinciding with creating the famous vineyards we know today, the new landowners quickly began erecting massive showpiece chateaux throughout the region. Many of the original Saint Julien estates are still standing today and can easily be viewed while driving down the famous D2 highway.
The Top Ten Facts You Need to Know about St. Julien
#1 St. Julien sandwiched between Margaux and Pauillac offers the best of both worlds, combining the elegance of Margaux with the power of Pauillac.
#2 St. Julien is the smallest of the major appellations in the Medoc with 910 hectares of vines.
#3 St. Julien is the home to the largest classified growth in the Left Bank with the 123 hectare vineyard of Chateau Lagrange.
#4 St. Julien has the distinction to have close to 85% of its land classified in the 1855 classification of the Medoc. This is more than any other appellation..
#5 St. Julien is perfect for Cabernet Sauvignon. The other important grape varieties planted in the appellation include Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec.
#6 A minor dispute is taking place between growers located in the Haut Medoc commune of Cussac that claim their vines should be included in the St. Julien appellation.
#7 Several of the original drainage ditches created by the Dutch to drain Bordeaux are visible off the D2 highway in St. Julien.
#8 Leoville Las Cases, Leoville Poyferre and Leoville Barton were all part of the same estate, when it was first created.
#9 St. Julien has the only chateau from the 1855 Classification of the Medoc that remains in the hands of the same family at the time it was classified. Leoville Barton is still the property of the Barton family.
#10 St. Julien is the home to the largest number of Super Second chateaux. A super Second wine is one where if a reclassification of the Medoc ever took place again, their wines would be considered for First Growth status.
The best vintages for Saint Julien wines. The top vintages for St. Julien are: 1945, 1953, 1959, 1961, 1982, 1996, 2000, 2005, 2009, 2010 and 2014. However, for St. Julien, it’s not quite that simple to paint a broad stroke. For example, some estates it the appellation were not making great wine during the 1940’s, 1950’s, 1960’s and 1970’s. Today, that is not the case as all the producers are making truly sublime wines. If you are interested in reading more detailed information on other vintages for St. Julien and all the other top Bordeaux appellations, please read: Bordeaux Year to Year Detailed Vintage Reports 1900 to Today
In blind tastings, it’s easy to confuse St. Julien with Pauillac. Some estates share similar terroir. In fact the vineyards of Chateau Leoville Las Cases abut the vineyards of Chateau Latour. The top Bordeaux wines of the Saint Julien region are meant to age, in order to display their full level of complexities and unique characteristics. It’s not just Pauillac that can remind tasters of St. Julien, Margaux can also seem similar to St. Julien from some of the more concentrated, tannic wines. Perhaps this is due in part to the fact that St. Julien lies sandwiched between Pauillac to the north and Margaux to the south.
Geographically, St. Julien is situated in the middle of two important appellations in the Medoc. Margaux is to the south and Pauillac borders the region in the north. The port of Beychevelle is right there, which helped with the ease of shipping in the formative years. In the 1855 classification, a total of 5 chateau earned coveted status as a Second Growth: Ducru Beaucaillou, Gruaud Larose, Leoville Barton, Leoville Las Cases and Leoville Poyferre .
AOC Law and Rules for St. Julien: What does it take to be a Saint Julien wine? According to the decree of November 14, 1936, the St. Julien AOC wines must meet precise production conditions: grape varieties, minimum sugar content, alcoholic strength 10.5% alcohol and limited yields. There is also a yearly blind tasting of each new vintage produced in the appellation.
Interestingly, a few producers on the St. Julien appellation produce a small amount of white wine. Chateau Lagrange is one of the few St. Julien properties to produce a white wine. The wine is blended from approximately 60% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% Semillon and 10% Muscadelle Chateau Talbot also makes a limited amount of white Bordeaux wine. White Bordeaux wine from St. Julien chateau are sold as generic, AOC Bordeaux Blanc wine.