As a lover of powerful, heavy Bordeaux red wines, matured in barrique barrels, one cannot avoid the name Château Margaux. This royal wine, a cuvée of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in the high-priced segment, has won several awards.
It captivates with its velvety, lush character, which fully unfolds in the aftertaste. The red wine with its purple-garnet-red colour lies mayestically in the glass. Its dark, dense colour with a purple shimmer at the rim gives us a good idea of what to expect: Château Margaux’s elegant richness contains nuances of cooked cherries, grenadine and subtle lactic tones accompanied by dried fruits and fresh berries that elegantly unite in the expansive bouquet. The red Château Margaux feels silky and velvety on the palate.
Therefore, this masterpiece cannot be missing in my presentation of the best red barrique wines.
About the Winery
A brief summary of the most important key data about this world-famous wine estate:
Château Margaux has about 80 hectares of vineyards planted with 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. The vines are on average over 35 years old. The grapes are harvested by hand and are strictly selected first in the vineyard and a second time when they arrive in the cellar. The vinification takes place in oak barrels with automatic temperature control, the ageing in new barriques lasts between 18 months and 2 years, depending on the vintage. Led by director Paul Pontallier, Château Margaux is often described as the primus inter pares of all 1er Crus.
The winery produces 4 lines of wine: The Gran Vin (the famous main line produced since the 17th century, the Pavillon Rouge (known as the 2nd main line of the estate, also probably produced since the end of the 17th century), the Pavillon Blanc (the white line of the noble estate, also known as Château Margaux vin de sauvignon in the 19th century) and the Margaux de Château Margaux, a limited luxury line with particularly long ageing.
Château Margaux Vintages
The Grand Vin of this year was an enormous success. It was the best production of a decade, as it surpassed the 9 years before by far. As we can all imagine those years of war were extremely hard times and it comes close to a miracle that the winery was able to produce such great quality again, still in the last years of war.
This wine has an elegant, fine bouquet with a very smooth and round finish. It is a vintage of great elegance, comparable to certain ones of the 50s. The Château Margaux 1943 will be an outstanding piece in every connoisseur’s wine cellar. A great gift for an exceptional occasion.
A real Château Margaux of 1952 – an incredible gift or piece to possess in your own collection. Over the years the 1952 was able to keep an impressive freshness, with a very fine, distinct bouquet. After a tender and silky impression on the palate, tannins of slight firmness unfold in the finish. An excellent royal vintage to possess with pride.
This very old vintage of great finesse and balance is a bit more light compared to other vintages, as typical for that decade. This mature wine is especially smooth on the palate with a slightly dry finish.
Château Margaux 1981 has turned out to be superior to the years before. The nose can be described with words like elegance, finesse, classicism and fine distinction. As typical for the best Bordeaux wines it’s balance on the palate is just wonderful, the finsih long and enormously smooth.
The Château Margaux 1982 vintage is a full-bodied, complex and fleshy red wine with a bouquet that is outstandingly dense and rich. It feels powerfull yet smooth and round on the palate which makes this wine an exceptional experience.
The quality of this vintage is simply outstanding. From the beginning this wine was rich, round and quite fruity, but it has developed even more fine and complex during aging. This wine is so especially enjoyable due to it’s silky and round tannins and it’s very long finish that displays an impressive concentration.
The Château Margaux 1990 vintage was the third one in a row when outstanding wines were produced due to very beneficial weather conditions in those years. The chateau margaux 1990 has great finesse and charm and is on the same level as the classic Grand Vin from 1988 and the opulent and rich result of 1989.
This vintage is said to have all the characteristics the Grand Vin du Chateau Margaux is supposed to have: It has a complex body – rich, powerful, deep yet delicate, harmonious and subtle. This wine feels smooth but full of power on the palate.
The producers were surprised by the outcome of the Château Margaux 1996 after period of heavy rain in September. But it seems like those climate conditions helped to produce one of the best Carbernet grapes ever which lead to a wine with exceptional characteristics. This wine has already promised great pleasure in younger age, but has the potential to age into an even more royal personality.
It seems that the Château Margaux 2000 vintage could set an new quality benchmark regarding the style of the Grand Vin. After more than 2 years of aging in the barrel this wine has achieved a nearly incomparable softness in a long finish. If you should now still get a bottle of this great vintage it should be a good time to decant it as it has already had some additional years of aging.
Other exceptional vintages are said to be the Château Margaux 2009, 2010 and 2015 one.
Château Margaux 1929 Vintage
A vintage of particular interest used to be the Château Margaux 1929. This wine was the last quality production of the vintner before the terrible 1930s and the war. It was only after 1945 that wines of comparable quality were produced again. One must know about the 1929 bottles, however, that they have partially lost their original character. It really depends on the bottle, if you are lucky you will get a still excellent 1929, but sometimes they can already be in decline.
Awards & Reputation
Château Margaux has long been considered the Versailles of the Médoc, and its fine wines rank among the world’s top. Thomas Jefferson¹ had a private wine cellar that contained a 1787 Château Margaux. The price of this bottle was half a million US dollars, which made this 1787 vintage world famous.
Chateau Margaux Wines get top of the top ratings by experts, such as Robert Parker², Vinous³ and James Suckling⁴.
Managing director of the world-famous Château Margaux for over 30 years, until 2016
Raised in a family that has been linked to the wine industry for generations, Paul Pontallier’s life path led directly to the Grignon National Agronomic Institute of Paris with later specialisation in viticulture and oenology in Montpellier. He wrote his doctoral thesis in 1981 at the renowned Talence Institute of Oenology in his native Bordeaux. Since 1990, he has been responsible for the world-famous wines of Château Margaux.
Once Upon a Time… The Beginning of Château Margaux
The history of Château Margaux is difficult to summarise in a few words. The first mentions of the estate under the name “La Mothe de Margaux” date back to the 12th century. The name “Hill of Margaux” refers to the slightly elevated position of the estate, which is easy to recognise in an extremely flat region like Margaux.
It was not until many years later, however, that it was realised that, thanks to ideal natural drainage, the slopes around the estate were predestined for great wines.
By noble marriage, the historic province and present-day region of Aquitaine in south-west France, where Margaux is also located, was annexed to the English crown from 1152 to 1453. Bordeaux used this difficult time for France to prove itself with French wine on the English market and to consolidate its position.
But it was not until the years 1572 to 1582, under Pierre de Lestonnac and in the course of the development of the Médoc from grain to wine cultivation, that Château Margaux, as we know it today, was built and the vineyards cultivated.
By the end of the 17th century, Château Margaux already covered an area of 265 hectares, a third of which – to this day – is devoted to viticulture. Berlon made a decisive contribution to the history of the château estate at the beginning of the 18th century.
At a time when all grapes were vinified together, Berlon was the first to separate red and white grapes during harvest as well as subsequent fermentation and to recognise the importance of terroir – the beginning of modern viticulture and also the beginning of Château Margaux’s rise to the top of Bordeaux wines.
As the popularity of Bordeaux wines grew in the early 18th century, Joseph de Fumel owned the estate. Knowing the unique terroir, he planted the right grape varieties in individually optimally selected sites to harmonise with the heavily gravelly soil of the Médoc. The French Revolution, however, put a temporary end to Bordeaux’s golden age.
In the course of it, the estate with all its vineyards, forests, meadows and mills, which had been in the possession of the French noble family Lestonnac and its descendants for 200 years, was confiscated by French revolutionaries.
Put up for auction in 1801, Bertrand Douat, Marquis of Colonilla, acquired the estate and built the impressive neo-Palladian style winery that can still be admired in its beauty today.
In addition to the pompous main building, residential houses for employees of the winery were also built on one side. Due to the distance to the capital Bordeaux, this was urgently necessary, which resulted in the development of a small wine village of its own.
On the other hand, the fermentation chamber, the farm’s own cooperage and the large wine cellar with its majestic perspectives and high white columns were built. In the course of the Bordeaux classification, Château Margaux was awarded the title Premier Grand Cru in 1855, which it has been able to maintain until today.
A Piece of Greece in Médoc – André Mentzelopoulos
After the death of the Marquis, the Château passed through the hands of bankers and trading houses and experienced hard times due to the phylloxera disaster as well as the global financial crisis until it was acquired by the Greek André Mentzelopoulos in 1977.
He quickly discovered the nooks and crannies of Château Margaux that needed care and investment to restore Margaux to what it deserved. With passion and no prospect of great success in the near future, André Mentzelopoulos put his heart and soul and tireless work into the château, vineyard and cellar.
With the help of the renowned oenologist Emile Paynaud, he undertook numerous replantings in the vineyard as well as the installation of a new drainage system, introduced barrique ageing and built the first large underground wine cellar in the region.
The winery, which has been a historical monument since 1946, was renovated and decorated under the supervision of numerous experts. We have André Mentzelopoulos to thank for the reconstruction of Château Margaux’s impressive architectural and viticultural heritage today. The reward for Mentzelopoulos and Emile Paynaud’s work and heart and soul was the exceptional harvest of 1978.
Following in her father’s extraordinary footsteps – Corinne Mentzelopoulos.
However, the Greek was unable to enjoy the true renaissance of Château Margaux due to his untimely death in 1980, which is why his daughter Corinne Mentzelopoulos took over the winery at short notice and still manages it today.
Together with her father’s carefully selected, competent and highly motivated team, she took up the challenge in 1982 when the demand for Bordeaux wines experienced an international boom.
Since 1983, the highly sympathetic Paul Pontallier has been the manager and extremely talented oenologist responsible for the 87 hectares of vineyards, whose average 40-year-old vines are 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot and 5% each Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
The soil consists of a homogeneous layer of medium to fine gravel, 4 to 11 metres deep, which was deposited by the Garonne river during the Günz ice age. It is relatively chalky and has excellent natural water drainage, forcing the vines to grow particularly deep roots. Since 2003, Corinne Mentzelopoulos has been the sole owner of Château Margaux, after buying out the remaining shares of previous heirs.
To this day, the demand for Bordeaux wines and Margaux’s famous, great wines is steadily increasing. Nevertheless, the team around Corinne Mentzelopoulos never rests on the success of the past years and does its utmost every day to do justice to the heritage of the exceptional winery to the maximum extent on the one hand, but on the other hand never stop improving.
The timelessness of the quality, which has remained constant for centuries, keeps the Premier Grand Cru winery sovereignly at the top of the wine world.
From the harmonious interplay of top craftsmanship, tradition and outstanding terroir, unique top wines are created at Château Margaux.