Last week we were delighted to welcome Aurelian Valance, Commercial Director of Chateau Margaux to our offices for what was a quite brilliant tasting of what is Bordeaux’s most seductive first growth.
We have long been fans of Ch. Margaux and have enjoyed an excellent relationship with the property for some years now. Yes: all the first growths are different, we like to think that Margaux is different for a reason.
What is it that makes Ch. Margaux great? There are some different answers here.
To quote Aurelian, who is as refreshingly frank as all the Margaux team: “we have no secrets; we don’t need them. We have the terroir.” Having tasted the component parts of Chateau Margaux over the past few years, we can firmly attest to this. The chateau’s 94 hectares of vines are divided into discrete parcels, each with their own particular characteristics and particular strengths in different vintages. Tasting the components, or the complete blend, affirms that this is very special soil.
One of our answers to what makes Margaux great is as much to do with the human element as it is to do with nature. It is about the ownership, and the team that run it.
Andre Mentzelopulous became proprietor of the estate in 1977. An intelligent, well-travelled and visionary man, he must be mentioned as he started an immediate investment in the chateau with the long-term in mind. The re-introduction of the second wine, the development of the cellars, replanting. Much of what we enjoy is down to him. Andre died too early to see the full fruit of the seed that he planted, and his daughter Corrine took over on his death in 1980. In 1983 she employed Paul Pontallier, one of Bordeaux’s most charismatic, intelligent and passionate men: for me, it is this team and its tightness and longevity that makes Margaux what it is. There is something almost Burgundian in the connection between the terroir – some of the world’s best – and the team that craft the fruit that it yields.
To follow our tasting we have an offer of some of the chateau’s ex-cellar stocks. These have been lying at the estate since bottling and are in pristine condition and of unquestionable provenance. It is worth noting that stocks on the ground of Margaux are nowhere near the level of some of its peers: Margaux for the most part has remained a wine, and an exceptional one, rather than a commodity. One of the many factors that make this first growth a little different.
What is striking about any vintage of Pavillon Blanc is its sheer intensity and depth of flavour. Served blind one would rarely, if ever, pick this as Sauvignon Blanc. Not only is there this staggering intensity, there is an almost piercing minerality and a richesse that points to grand cru Burgundy more than anything else. This is a very special, idiosyncratic wine. Deliciously edgy now, it is a keeper.
This is noticeably more developed though still very, very, fresh. There is a hint of popcorn toffee on the nose, and the wine is just approaching that rich, Montrachet-like style. Again there is a staggering intensity on top of a laser-like precision. For those that like a touch of maturity this will please now though will most likely keep for another decade.
This was the wine of the tasting for at least one of the F+R buyers. 2009s are simply delicious and even the very best are hard to resist now. 2009 is no doubt the young version of 1982: wines that will please and please and please for many, many years. Enjoyable now, this easily has another ten years in it, probably twenty.
A totally different wine to the 2009; this is a much more classic style. An englishman’s claret. Cool and pure, precise and long. Whilst the 2009 might be the more seductive of the two wines, the lift of the 2004 and its sheer class put the two neck and neck today. “Real” wine. And very lovely.
No matter how impressive the Pavillon was, this is another level. There is something special about wines at this level. It’s a bit like turning left as you get on the plane. Seat 1A. A step up.
Ch. Margaux was always one of the best 2004s: fresh, elegant. My note reads “fresh, like a cool breeze blowing the fruit”. What is so attractive about the 20004 is that it captures all that is good of the vintage: a classic purity in the very best sense, and a fragrance and depth that is only Margaux. An exceptional wine.
If 2004 sums up the feminine side of Margaux, the 1995 is the masculine version. Not remotely flashy: this is a serious, intellectual Margaux. Soft and lovely in the mouth, and proper, proper claret. Complete. Craig Norton, our Private Sales Manager has a predilection for 1995s and has tasted and drunk more than most. “About as perfect a 1995 as one could wish for” – his words sum the wine up.
The chateau has kindly made some ex-chateau stock available to us, if you would like to find out more please do get in touch,
Director of Fine Wine