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Why Roc de Cambes is the wine you should be drinking this summer

The David to many wine Goliaths, we explore why this giant-slaying bottle deserves a place in your wine rack

Red wine drinkers rejoice! Few wines out perform their place in the general hierarchy as often as Roc de Cambes. This is a wine that has “slayed” far grander names with a monotonous regularity. Indeed, the Côtes de Bourg Estate is now unquestionably the finest producer in the appellation (where the grapes for the wine are grown). So what makes it so special?

In 1988 François Mitjavile, owner of the then rising star of Saint-Émilion -Tertre Rôteboeuf – heard of a vineyard which was on the market.

He visited, and was immediately struck by the similarity of the limestone escarpment and aspect with that of Saint-Émilion, seeing it as a continuation of the same geology, and the unique setting of the vineyard. The site comprises a pair of natural amphitheatres overlooking the river, the ‘great thermo-regulator’ which provide protection from both frost and extreme heat.

The vines were planted on the most highly-reputed slope of the Côtes de Bourg, called “Les Croutes”, where the heat of the sun is regulated by the effects of the estuary, permitting regular growth and wonderfully ripe, concentrated fruit. The cool clay-limestone takes time to warm up in the Spring, impeding anything other than late maturity (more October than September) – a Mitjavile signature.

François persuaded his bank to back him, and immediately set about breathing life back into what he had intuitively perceived as a sleeping beauty. The 14 hectares, about 31 acres in “old money”, of vines were then planted with both Merlot and Cabernet. A little like a human career, vines are immature before 25 and then do their best work at 40ish before producing less after 60-65 years of age.

Unsurprisingly the current vine age is around 40 – perfectly poised for greatness. Nothing is done without reason on this Estate and through a combination of experience, art and science François has created a wine which is recognized by a small inner sanctum of Bordeaux lovers, as sitting comfortably at the top table of all of Bordeaux. If you haven’t tried it yet, you really must.

Mitjavile is a big fan of getting the timing of the bottling exactly right, as many winemakers say “once it is in the bottle our job is done”. Unlike those who create a wine to lay down (storing it for future enjoyment), François likes to have the wine in perfect balance so that it can be enjoyed any time after bottling.

This means you can drink Roc de Cambes now and be assured that it will still be heavenly in decades ahead. He does not like the roughness of decanting and just prefers that people serve the wine from bottle at a cool (12-14 degrees) temperature.

Such a flexible wine lends itself beautifully to food pairing. Simple meats work a treat but you can be more ambitious and see it shine alongside Asian dishes, fish such as tuna and pasta. We also urge you, even more than with wines, to savour this as a stand alone. The 2011 is delicious now and given the season, would make a fantastic fathers day or Wedding gift.

You can read more about the Mitjavile family and their wine legacy by visiting

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