Chbteau Cos-d'Estournel, a well-known second-growth estate in Bordeaux, has changed its label to protect its wines from forgery and imitation. Starting with the 1997 vintage, which is arriving in markets now, the chbteau is returning to a style similar to the one its bottles carried in the 1890s.
For years, Cos-d'Estournel had considered returning to its original label, and not just for aesthetic or sentimental reasons. The engraved labels are like bank notes or stamps -- extremely high quality and very difficult to replicate.
"First, we had to find an artist or artisan engraver, then the equipment for such a specialized technique," said Jean-Guillaume Prats, managing director of Cos-d'Estournel. "The only place in France capable of printing sheets of self-adhesive labels is the government, as they do with bank notes, or the postal services as they do with postage stamps."
Cos-d'Estournel worked closely with the French government and the Pirigueux postal printing services. Jacky Larriviere, one of France's last master engravers, who works for the Pirigueux postal services, created the label entirely by hand. He engraved it with a needle and later transferred the design to a copper plate for modern printing techniques.
Louis d'Estournel, who founded Cos-d'Estournel in the St.-Esthphe appellation in the early 1800s, was one of the first proprietors to bottle his grand cru wines with the chbteau's own personalized label. At that time, most chbteau wines were still sold in bulk to merchants who bottled and marketed them under whatever label or name they chose to use. Eager to ensure the authenticity of his wine, Estournel produced his labels from a copper-plate engraving. This costly process was later abandoned for more efficient and economical printing processes.
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