Paul Pontallier attested to being delighted with the 2011. His 'only disappointment is the quantity... The growing season was so dry, which resulted in tiny berries, and a crop 25% smaller than in 2010'. The harvest began on the 5th of September (for the reds), which is the earliest since 1983 and the fruit had a good density and maturity, yet retained real freshness due to the cool maturation period in August. Paul likens the 2011 to the 1996 and the 2008, but believes that it has greater density. With yields of 29hl/ha, one is not surprised to find a concentrated wine. Glorious perfume with flowers, liquorice, dark berries and crushed stones; there is great depth and concentration here. Pure, vivid cassis and loganberry fruit coats the palate. Although this is dense, it is never thick or heavy and the tannins are both refined and sumptuous. Dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon (86%), Merlot plays a supporting role with 10% of the blend, whilst Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc account for just 2% each. This is not a wine to be overlooked - it may not have the upfront appeal of some of the other First Growths, but this reserved beauty is a complete wine, which will develop and delight with time in bottle.
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.