“Retour des Indes,” or “Returned from India”: a foray into the archives of Cos d’Estournel reveals the origins of this highly unusual label on some of the estate’s bottles. Starting in 1838, or perhaps even earlier, Louis-Gaspard d’Estournel began shipping his wines to India by boat. When some of these bottles made the return journey, he came to the realization that traveling the seas had accelerated the aging of his wines, sublimating them.
Was this discovery by the man also known as the “Maharajah of Saint-Estèphe” a simple question of chance? Most likely. After all, Louis-Gaspard d’Estournel had developed a passion for India and was already shipping his wines there. It was upon returning from a journey to India with some unsold bottles that he understood that the thousands of kilometers traveled had developed the maturity and complexity of his wines.