The magnificent estate of Chateau Margaux in Bordeaux France dates back to the 12th century, where at the time, the property was reserved for use by royalty only. It is quite amazing to know that this illustrious Chateau has been around for close to 1000 years. The property has changed ownership many times over the centuries and has transitioned from a grain-growing field to a grape growing vineyard in the 1700’s. For over four hundred years Chateau Margaux has produced wines of refined excellence and class. Chateau Margaux was one of only four estates(Lafite, Latour, and Haut Brion were the other three) to be classified as a First Growth Vineyard in the original 1855 Classification of Bordeaux. Due to its terroir and highly regarded wines through the centuries, Chateau Margaux is amongst the world most expensive and most prestigious wine.
Chateau Margaux is located on the left bank of Garonne River in the Medoc region of Bordeaux. This estate and vineyard has had world-class owners throughout the centuries, but none have had as much of an impact as André Mentzelopoulos, who purchased the property in 1977. Mentzelopoulos was drawn to the architectural grandeur of this historic Chateau due to its classical Greek columns. He was instantly reminded of his rich Greek heritage. Immediately upon purchasing the Chateau, he invested heavily into his investment, to restore Chateau Margaux from the economic crisis that had hit Bordeaux in the early 70’s.
Mentzelopoulus had vowed to restore the Chateau to its original grandeur. He invested in installing intricate drainage in the vineyards and he replanted many of the vines. He also introduced innovative ideas like its underground cellars, the first of its kind in the region and he established the use of new oak barrels. The most vital of the investments was the restoration of the Chateau itself. The Chateau was declared a historic monument in 1946 and so Metzelolpoulus worked with historians and preservationists to bring the Chateau back to its original grandeur. With these huge investments Chateau Margaux was once again able to allow the terroir to fully express itself in its wines and the 1978 vintage was declared an exceptionally outstanding vintage for its wine. Unfortunately André Mentzelopoulos reign was short-lived as he passed away in 1980, he did not live long enough to see the fruits of his labor.
After her father’s death, Corinne Mentzelopoulos took over the management of the Chateau Margaux. Immediately upon inheriting this marvelous and grand Chateau, Corinne hired viticulture Paul Pontallier. The combined team of Corinne and Paul have made this amazing Chateau into what it is today. Many would say the past 35 years of this Chateau, have been its finest, with a consistent stream of highly regarded vintages.
Chateau Margaux is most prominently known for its extraordinary terroir. The wines of Chateau Margaux are considered the most elegant of all Bordeaux wines with a more feminine style and softer feel. Here at Chateau Margaux the Cabernet Sauvignon thrives to show its very best expression. Chateau Margaux’s red Bordeaux blends are predominately Cabernet Sauvignon, but what many do not know is that they have a greater representation of Merlot in their wines compared to other wines from this same region. Chateau Margaux also makes a wonderfully crisp white wine that is 100% Sauvignon Blanc, which is quite unique to this region as most whites in Bordeaux are a blend too.
I had the pleasure of having a wine tasting dinner with Corinne Mentzelopoulos at Benoit restaurant in New York with the Harvard Business School Women’s Association of New York. The tasting was held at Benoit, an Alain Ducasse restaurant that represents the original Paris Bistro that was founded in 1912 by Benoit Matray. Corinne guided us through the wines of the evening, ranging in vintages from 2014 and going back to 1989. The wines were perfectly paired with a cocktail reception followed by a four course dinner. Everyone knew the wines we were about to taste this evening were the most special and noble wines of Bordeaux.
The tasting notes for the six wines we tasted tonight are as follows. They are noted in the order they were served. In my opinion, Chateau Margaux is truly the royalty of Bordeaux and the wines clearly exhibited that tonight.
2009 Margaux Du Chateau Margaux ($90) – This wine is Chateau Margaux’s third label. 2009 was the inaugural year for this third label wine from Chateau Margaux. 2009 was a phenomenal vintage and the full expression of the Margaux terroir is clearly exhibited. The wine drinks like it is a first growth and thus offers tremendous value. The wine has a deep ruby color, and a lovely bouquet of dark fruit and spice. On the palate this wine is luscious and intense with notes of blueberries, blackberries, cocoa and lavender. The acidity is fresh and vibrant and the tannins are well-integrated. The wine has a wonderfully long finish. Chateau Margaux has said it would only produce this third label wine in exceptionally great vintages. So if you come across this wine, grab it, as it is a wonderfully elegant wine with rich finesse.
2014 Pavillon Blanc Du Chateau Margaux ($190) – This deliciously elegant wine is 100% Sauvignon Blanc and made in a wonderful year for Sauvignon Blancs in Bordeaux. Weather and climate conditions were just perfect for this vintage. The wine has fresh acidity due to cool, dry weather experienced in this vintage. This wine has great texture and viscosity. There are hints of oranges, honeysuckle, lemon and lime. The wine has great depth, finesse and full body. The Pavillon Blanc expresses a distinct minerality and the terroir really shines through. The wine was perfectly paired with a light yet refreshing quinoa lobster salad served with wild greens, lobster roe and squash.
2004 Pavillon Rouge Du Chateau Margaux ($230) – This wonderful second label wine by Chateau Margaux is made from 75% Cabernet Sauvignon and 25% Merlot. The wine is drinking just exquisitely right now. The wine exudes wonderful acidity, freshness, bright fruit and elegantly smooth tannins. It is hard not to compare this with the first label Chateau Margaux as it is vinified in the same method, but is bottled a few months earlier. This wine is a beautiful example of the great terroir of Margaux. The wine also has wonderful aging potential. This wine and the 2000 Pavillon Rouge Du Chateau Margaux were served with the main course of the evening, roasted quail with foie gras, spinach and turnips. 2004 and 2000 were perfect pairings for this rich, fatty, heavy but delicious dish. The tannins quickly cut through the fatty, meaty texture of the foie gras and quail. They both pair perfectly with lamb, steak and other intensely meaty, hearty dishes.
2000 Pavillon Rouge Du Chateau Margaux Magnum ($475) We had the pleasure to taste this wine from a Magnum pouring from one of the best vintages Margaux has experienced in recent years. This vintage produced ripe and intensely concentrated grapes. The 2000 vintage was exceptional and was very apparent in this wine. The wine was fresh, young and vibrant even after 15 years of aging in the cellars. Corinne said this wine has the complexity and density of the first growth label and has further strong aging potential. The wine had an expressive nose of fruit, floral and spice. On the palate the fresh fruit was still abundant and the tannins were velvety soft and smooth. The wine was very elegant and showed wonderful finesse.
1999 Chateau Margaux ($650) – This first growth wine invites you with complex aromas of raspberry, plum, cassis, violets and vanilla. On the palate this wine is elegant yet full of expressive flavors. The wine offered great depth and balance. The velvety smooth tannins were so pleasing on the palate and the wine offered tastes of ripe fruit, chocolate and slight hints of tobacco. The wine was extremely seductive on the palate. The 1999 vintage can be drunk now or it even promises to age for another 20 years. That is the beauty of Margaux.
1989 Chateau Margaux ($675) – This wine is the essence of a true Bordeaux. The wine truly lives up to its pedigree after twenty-six years. It is mature and has aromas of tobacco, earth, and dark berries. The black fruit is still very prominent on this wine. This 1989 first growth Bordeaux had a lovely, deep, velvety richness on the palate. The texture of the wine is truly beautiful as the tannins have evolved thus giving the wine a wonderfully smooth, long lingering finish. This wine epitomizes a classic Margaux, which is a wine that is soft, elegant and wonderfully feminine.