We were saddened to hear of the death of Paul Pontallier just before the primeur tastings. He worked tirelessly for over thirty years for Chateau Margaux, to promote and improve the wines. Although his death was untimely, 2015 will be remembered fondly by those who knew him as his last vintage. It is a vintage that is befitting of the great man; a vintage of depth, classicism, class and refinement. The Grand Vin accounts for just 35% of the crop and is produced from a blend of 87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. We had high expectations having just tasted a seriously impressive Pavillon Rouge – and we were not disappointed, far from it. Chateau Margaux has produced one of the most hauntingly beautiful wines we can ever recall tasting from this noble terroir. It is classically understated yet ripples with power and a sense of nobility. Initially the perfumed bouquet of potpourri, roses, damsons, bilberry and griotte delights the nose. Then a silken swathe of aromatic dark fruit, crème de cassis and lacy flecks of bright crimson fruit captivated the palate. This is so detailed and effortless; the fruit is uplifting, refined and ever so charming. The tannins are discrete but ever-present, coated with beautiful red berry fruits. This mesmerising, nuanced wine goes on and on delighting the palate with new flavours and regal, effortless tannins. Simply Superb!
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.