The 2006 Margaux is a remarkable example in a number of ways, both in its fidelity to the course held by Paul Pontallier since his arrival at the estate almost 30 years ago, as well as in the distinguishing features that set it apart from every other wine he has made here. To begin with it contains an astonishing 96% Cabernet Sauvignon, with the balance of Merlot, and this gives the wine a more masculine character than normal. Analytically however, the 2006 varies little from great, Merlot-enriched vintages such as 2000 and 1996, with acidity, alcohol and IPT all falling comfortably within Pontallier’s chosen parameters. And in its character, this is a true Château Margaux, with purity, complexity, suppleness, layered depth and great charm. There are cool blackcurrants and wild damsons, blueberries and sloes, cedar, tobacco and vanilla; mouth-puckering freshness, fine minerals and elegant tannins. The extra structure that comes from the high Cabernet content is well accommodated by ripe fruit, which is opulent and plentiful. Only 36% of the crop will be designated Grand Vin.
Great as the wine of Margaux is, no introduction to this estate would be complete without mention of the magnificent Chateau, built by the Marquis de Colonilla and designed by Louis Combes. The Marquis allegedly had no real interest in wine, but his legacy is still enjoyed by everyone who visits.
The Mentzelopoulos family bought the estate from the Ginestet family in 1977. In an era of appalling vintages and economic depression in Bordeaux, Andre Mentzelopoulos invested in improving drainage, replanted vines, built a new barrel cellar and encouraged the use of a second label to improve quality. He sadly died in 1980 before the fruits of his labour were to become apparent, but he can be credited with the revival in Margaux’s reputation and setting the foundations for more successful times that followed. Today, Andre’s daughter, Corrine owns the estate and with the general manager, Paul Pontallier has continued the program of investment.
There is a general trend to producing wines with very high percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon. It is Paul’s belief that the best gravel croupes are best suited to Cabernet, with much of the Merlot utilised in the second label, Pavillon Rouge and a new third label. There is a 12 hectare vineyard further inland that is planted with Sauvignon Blanc, used in the white wine, Pavillon Blanc. At its best, the Grand Vin is ethereal, perfumed, powerful and always supremely elegant.
The wines tend to show more perfume and roundness than neighbour St-Julien, Pauillac, and St-Estèphe, whilst retaining a certain structure and concentration. Margaux is the most southerly and most extensive of the famous Médoc communes, a patchwork of vineyards with lesser parcels classed purely as Haut-Médoc. A myriad of soil mixtures can be found, clay, limestone, and gravel. Though quality is not always consistent here, the potential is great as more Margaux properties were included in the 1855 classification of the Médoc and Graves than any other appellation.
The two leading lights are the highly sought after Châteaux Margaux and Palmer, though there are several other solid performers including Brane-Cantenac, Rauzan-Ségla, Durfort-Vivens, Lascombes, Giscours, Ferrières, Malescot St Exupery and Luc Thienpont’s new boutique vineyard, Clos des Quatre Vents.