Chateau Margaux G de Laubier
Margaux is the largest appellation in Bordeaux. It is also the warmest area in the Médoc, being the most southern in the region. Consequently, the grapes are usually picked a little earlier in Margaux than for other wines of Bordeaux and for that reason Château Margaux is celebrated for its production of some of the silkiest, most aromatic wines in Bordeaux and its fame has thus endured over the centuries.
The land of the estate has been occupied since at least the 12th century by a
fortified castle known as ‘Lamothe’ or ‘La Mothe’ (from motte, a small rise in the land), and wines produced there were known in the 15th century under the names of ‘Margou’ and ‘Margous’.
It was only when the Lestonnac family took over the estate, that it started to resemble the property we know as Château Margaux today. Over a ten year period, from 1572 to 1582 Pierre de Lestonnac, reorganised the property, moving it away from growing cereals to the production of wine.
Between the 16th and late 18th centuries, thanks to a talented estate manager named Berlon, the family steadily improved the quality of their wines and saw their reputation extend across the Atlantic. Monsieur Berlon, realised the benefits of vinifying red and white grapes separately. This small change was what set Château Margaux firmly on the path to modern vinification practices and international renown. The reputation of Margaux spread rapidly. Sir Robert Walpole, the English Prime Minister in the early 18th Century, declared himself an avid supporter of the estate and was known to purchase four casks every three months! Unfortunately, The French Revolution (and Mme. La Guillotine ) brought this profitable era to an abrupt end.
In 1801, Bertrand Douat, Marquis de la Colonilla, purchased the estate. He quickly decided that the outstanding reputation of Margaux’s wines demanded the creation of an impressive château, cellars and cooperage to match. Built in 1810 by Louis Combes, the château we see today is a unique example of the neo-classical style. Its structured façade, balanced by ionic columns, exudes a refined elegance, similar to that of the wines produced within.
Today the château is owned by Corinne Mentzelopoulos. Her father, André, purchased the estate in 1977 and then set about investing significantly towards the regeneration of the vineyard and wineries, by installing new drainage systems; replanting the vineyards; creating a new underground cellar and investing in new oak barrels. The effect of these improvements was clearly evident as shown by the spectacular and consistent vintages produced since the 1978 vintage. This has allowed Château Margaux to maintain its reputation and remain a dominant force in a highly competitive global market.
Margaux barrels and candle – Mike Coode
Chai de 1e?re anne?e 2 – Michel Guillard
The wines are renowned for their finesse, perfume, concentration and longevity even in lesser vintages.
Margaux In the 1855 Classification only four wine producing Châteaux of Bordeaux gained First Growth (classé) status, of which the aristocratic Château Margaux is one, a dependable producer of one of the most elegantly refined and reasuringly expensive red wines globally.
The estate is spread over 262 hectares (650 acres) with 92 hectares (230 acres) under vine of which 87 hectares (210 acres) are entitled to the Margaux AOC declaration. There are 80 hectares (200 acres) of red varieties under vine with 75% of plantings Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot jointly.
The 12 hectares (30 acres) of white grapes are planted entirely with Sauvignon Blanc.
Reds: Cabernet Sauvignon (75%), Merlot (20%), Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot (5%)
White: Sauvignon Blanc (100%)
Château Margaux – Premier Grand Cru Classé in 1855 and 1973.
Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux – Appellation Margaux Contrôlée.
The soil is mainly gravely, in a series of outcrops shaped by erosion, that slope gently down towards the river.
The strata, often several metres thick, consist of gravel and stones of varying shapes and sizes, embedded in a clay and sandy matrix. The thin soil cannot hold water, thus forcing the vine roots deep into the soil for nourishment.
Only 11,000 cases of Château Margaux are produced each vintage.
The average annual production of the Grand vin, Château Margaux, is 130,000 bottles, while the second wine, Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux has an average production of 200,000 bottles. The dry white Pavillon Blanc du Château Margaux has a production of around 15,000 bottles, and must be sold under the generic Bordeaux AOC as the cultivation of Sauvignon blanc does not fall under the directives of the Margaux AOC.
Top Vintages Produced
|1899, 1900, 1928, 1953, 1982, 1986, 1990, 1996, 2000, 2005, 2008, 2009, 2010|
Margaux is a traditional Bordeaux winery. In some ways, they are slow to adopt new technology. Yet, modern wine making began at Château Margaux.
Vineyard, cellar buillding, Château and Church – Michel Guillard
Monsieur Berlon, the estate manager at the time of the Lestonnac family, was the first Bordeaux wine maker at Margaux to vinify red and white grapes separately. At the time, the red and white vines were mixed in the same plots. Berlon also never picked fruit early in the morning, because the grapes would be covered with dew which diluted the wine colour and flavour. He was also one of the first Bordeaux wine vineyard managers to understand the effects that differences in terroir soils had on the finished wine.
The manager, Paul Pontallier, ensures that excellence is preserved in the vineyards by tending the vines throughout the year. Commensurate care is taken in the vinification process in which Château Margaux is aged for 18 to 24 months in new oak barrels. The second wine, Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux, is bottled approximately 4 months earlier than this. In recent years, larger quantities of this wine have been produced as the selection process for the Grand Vin has become increasingly more intense.
The Château’s white wine, Pavillon Blanc du Château Margaux, is regarded as the finest in the Médoc. After ageing for 6 to 7 months in oak barrels, less than 2,000 cases of this dry and subtle wine are produced each vintage – making it one of the most highly sought-after white Bordeaux.
On average, Château Margaux produces 12,000 cases per year of Château Margaux Premier Cru; 16,000 cases per year of Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux and 1,250 cases of Pavillon Blanc du Château Margaux.?
As only 12,500 cases of Château Margaux are produced each vintage, the yields therefore are strictly controlled and only the finest wines are selected for the Grand Vin.
In 1924, the introduction of compulsory bottling at the Château gave the buyer a true guarantee of authenticity. In recent years, with forgeries becoming harder to detect, the Château has introduced laser etching on each bottle to serve as a trackable marker.
Château Margaux in the news
- Thomas Jefferson, the principal author of the American “Declaration of Independence” (1776) visited the estate and became a lifelong customer.
- Several leading châteaux are quietly suggesting that the 2010 vintage could even eclipse the annus mirabilis of 2009.
- The Government Hospitality Report was disclosed in early December 2010 in response to a Freedom of Information request lodged in July 2009.??A 1961 Chateau Margaux, 1er Cru Classe Bordeaux was revealed to be a favourite of Mrs Thatcher, who described it as ‘silky’ in 1989. It was however to be used for ‘special occasions’ only.
- A bottle of Château Margaux 1787 holds the record as the most expensive bottle of wine ever broken, insured at $225,000.
- March 2011- Chateau Margaux will launch a third wine this year, alongside Chateau Margaux and the second wine, Pavillon Rouge.”We have been even more severe with our selection forPavillon Rouge, but the 2009 vintage was so good, and all barrels have aged so well, that we decided it was appropriate to create a third wine of the estate.” managing director Paul Pontallier stated. This third wine will not be sold en primeur, as Chateau Margaux and Pavillon Rouge are currently, but will be kept back in bottle.
- Pontallier further added that it was “highly likely” that the quality of the 2010 vintage would mean they would do the same thing this year.
- The name of the wine has not yet been revealed but Pontallier said it was likely to be “simple and to the point.”
Address: 33460 Margaux France
Telephone: +33 (0) 5 57 88 83 83
Fax: +33 (0) 5 57 88 31 32
E-mail : email@example.com
- Lichine, Alexis (1967). Alexis Lichine’s Encyclopedia of Wines and Spirits. London: Cassell & Company Ltd.
- The Wine Bible, MacNeil K.,Workman Publishing,New York 2001
- The Antique Wine Company: Château Margaux (http://www.antique-wine.com)
- Wikipedia: Château Margaux
Escapement.uk.com wishes to thank Château Margaux for their kind assistance with providing advice and images for this article.
About the author
Philip Day is an early-retired academic in linguistics who has published many articles.
A North-Midlander (The Potteries) by birth, he currently lives close to the Lancashire Pennines which he regularly explores with his Patterdale terrier, Max.
In particular he has a keen interest in European fine wines and good food and will be contributing further articles in the future for Escapement.uk.com.