The wines of First Growth Château Margaux are so revered that the estate takes the name of the appellation in which it sits. While the big names in Pauillac jostle for dominance, Premier Grand Cru Classé Château Margaux is sole claimant of the Margaux appellation’s crown, despite stiff competition from neighbours Palmer and Rauzan-Ségla.
The critics are unanimous in their praise of Château Margaux with Neal Martin calling it: “the most feminine and charming of the First Growths.” He has even been known to advise his readers to “beg for a bottle and worry about the cost later.”
In Robert Parker’s eyes: “Margaux is consistently top-flight and generally one of the finest First Growths of Bordeaux.” An opinion backed up by Wine Advocate’s four perfect scores of 100 points (1900, 1990, 1996 and 2000), James Suckling’s five 100 point scores (2000, 2005, 2009, 2010 and 2015) and the innovative ranking website Wine Lister placing it in the top 20 wines in the world, among the likes of Domaine de la Romanée-Conti, Penfolds Grange, Dominus, Latour and Screaming Eagle and the other Bordeaux greats.
As Jeff Leve of The Wine Cellar Insider alludes to, the estate’s illustrious history is second to none: “The wines of Château Margaux have been sought by wealthy wine lovers for centuries… Château Margaux at its best blends elegance, purity of fruit, harmony and finesse.”
Château Margaux’s Grand Vin is the epitome of feminine and fragrant Bordeaux. However, these wines are not light-bodied, as Robert Parker says: “The style of Margaux is one of opulent richness, with a deep, complex bouquet of ripe blackcurrants, spicy vanilla and violets.” The consistently high-scoring Grand Vin (10-12,000 cases per year) is much sought-after in almost every vintage and as therefore commands a high price.
The estate produces around 16,000 cases of a second wine: Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux. The first vintage was 1906. In Robert Parker’s opinion: “Their second wine, which easily represents 30% to 50% of the declassified Château Margaux… has come on strong lately with some beautiful efforts in the 21st century.” A great wine in its own right (it is often described by critics as being more like a Grand Vin than a second wine), it offers a glimpse into this great estate at around a quarter of the price of the Grand Vin.
As Robert Parker puts it: “What is probably less well known is that their white wine, 100% Sauvignon Blanc, is one of the finest dry whites of Bordeaux and has been especially strong since the late 1990s.” Pavillon Blanc du Château Margaux is unusual for the appellation in being 100% Sauvignon Blanc. A little Semillon may find its way into the wine on rare occasions. Produced in tiny quantities of around 2-300 cases per year, it is always much in demand.
Château Margaux began making wine in the 1700s and achieved widespread fame by 1787, when it topped Thomas Jefferson’s hierarchy of châteaux. After its vineyards were captured during the Anglo-French wars of the 18th century, Château Margaux became a popular imbibe in the City of London. But it was being taken over by the Mentzelopoulos family in the late 1970s that pushed it forward with their serious but careful investment. As Jeff Leve says: “Château Margaux is a traditional Bordeaux winery… They take their time to make sure each step forward is the right step forward.”
The Mentzelopoulos family took on the legendary Paul Pontallier in 1983, described by Antonio Galloni as “one of Bordeaux’s foremost ambassadors and a true gentleman.” Dedicating his career to Château Margaux he steered the estate from what Neal Martin called “his brilliant debut in 1983” to the “thrilling” 2015, before his untimely death in 2016. Sadly Pontallier, described by Robert Parker as “the genius behind Château Margaux”, did not witness the rapturous critical acclaim that accompanied the release of his 2015s. His impact on Bordeaux and the world of fine was enormous, with Neal Martin asking “Where would Margaux be without him? For the last three decades, his wines have been a beacon, illustrating what the appellation could achieve with commitment and forward thinking.”
In 2016 Château Margaux unveiled what Neal Martin calls a “Sir Norman Foster-designed, state-of-the-art winery.” This services their largely organic vineyards of around 90 hectares planted with red grapes, which remains relatively unchanged, size-wise, since the 1855 Classification. These are, rather unusually for Bordeaux, situated very close to the château itself. Three quarters are planted with Cabernet Sauvignon, with remaining predominantly Merlot with a little Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. Château Margaux is a welcoming and open estate, FINE+RARE were once told by their Commercial Director that “We have no secrets; we don’t need them. We have the terroir.”
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