The List




The List


Chateau Margaux

Chateau Margaux, one of the five Premier Grand Cru clarets, is often cited as the ultimate demonstration of what the Old World can offer: elegance, refinement, breeding, and a full expression of the particular terroir of the vineyard. Yet it has not always been this way; in the 1960s and 1970s, in particular, the estate was trading heavily on past glories, and it was not until 1977 that a change in ownership brought about the reversal in fortunes that has led Margaux back to its exalted position as one of the world’s greatest red wines.

Grown primarily on gravely soil, the vines of the estate are a mix of cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, sauvignon blanc (for the white wine) and petit verdot, with cabernet sauvignon, in common with Chateau Margaux’s left bank brethren, being predominant, both in terms of area planted and in the final blend of the estate’s first red wine. Harvesting is by hand, enabling careful selection of only perfectly ripe grapes, and the wine is fermented in oak vats before spending a further two years in new French oak barrels.

Our recommended vintage -1996 - was expected to be a washout after heavy rain in parts of July and August tempered earlier enthusiasm for the classic vintage that a hot and dry June had seemed to indicate, However, the left bank was less affected than the right bank by these conditions, primarily because the cabernet sauvignon grape responded better than the merlot grape to the ripening conditions and harvest (which, incidentally, was drier on the left bank.) The result is a classic Chateau Margaux that exhibits all of the qualities for which the estate is famous, but is available at a more realistic price than some of the more hyped vintages.

The nose of the 1996 is rich and complex, with floral notes, and even an iron-like quality. On the palate there is very much a traditional structure that is classically elegant; there is the sense of balance here that is often missing in some of the more powerful modern wines that have come to the fore in the last decade. The cherry and dark fruit overtones are mature, rather than upfront, and are complemented by peppery, but finely judged, tannins, leading to a finish that leaves these flavours ringing in one’s mouth for what seems like minutes.

Like the other so called ‘blue chip’ wines of Bordeaux, Chateau Margaux is affected by all of the downsides of investment-related price inflation, but, even the most objective wine taster, who is able to remove entirely the mythical aura that the estate has acquired, would struggle to reach any other conclusion than that the prices are justified, however artificial they may be.