Margaux Wine Region Summary
Lying on the Left Bank within the Haut Medoc, with the sleepy village of Margaux at its centre, this appellation is home to some timeless wine producers - with a third of the original Cru Classé estates nestled among its 1355 hectares, more than any other within Bordeaux.
Margaux’s thin gravelly soil forces the roots of vines to probe into deeper clay and limestone to find moisture, and enables the Cabernet Sauvignon grapes dominant here, and Merlot, to develop the refined flavours required to create perfumed wines enjoyed here for more than two millennia. Indeed, it is thought that Bordeaux viticulture was born in Margaux under the hedonistic Romans.
Margaux wines are truly seductive; lighter than those of Saint-Estephe and Pauillac further downstream, and often described as having floral characteristics, with violets on the nose a hallmark of the very best vintages.
Of these wines, the most famous must be the produce of Chateau Margaux itself, named a premier cru in the 1855 classification. This is a wine of impeccable breeding; especially beloved by Thomas Jefferson and the first claret to ever be sold at Christies, it continues to be sought after by collectors who appreciate its subtle, refined characteristics. Chateaux Palmer, Rauzan Segla and Brane-Cantenac are also names that must be sought out. Margaux is an appellation where the canny collector is truly spoiled for choice.
Highest rated vintages for Margaux
I had this wine both in Seoul, Korea in February, and from my cellar in December, 2008, and it was remarkable how identical the wines smelled and tasted. It offers an extraordinary aromatic display of spring flowers, camphor, sweet red and black fruits, a hint of licorice, and no evidence of its 100% new oak cask aging. Round and generous with low acidity, but an opulent, full-bodied richness that is fresh with laser-like precision, this stunning wine is just beginning to reach its plateau of full maturity, where it should remain for another three decades. A sensational effort, it is one of the legendary wines made at Chateau Margaux. Release price: ($1800.00/case)
Absolutely compelling in two tastings of this vintage, the 2000 Margaux is composed of 90% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot. The extraordinary seductiveness, complex aromatics, and purity it exhibits lead me to believe it has reached its window of full maturity. Medium-bodied, with layers of concentration, stunning blue, red, and black fruits intermixed with spring flowers, a subtle dosage of new oak, and a distinctive personality that is elegant while at the same time powerful and substantial, this is a multi-dimensional wine that was extremely approachable and drinkable in both tastings I had of it. The color remains a healthy, even opaque bluish/purple, but there is no reason to hesitate to drink it. It should evolve for another 30-40 years, so there is no hurry either.
The 1996 Chateau Margaux, which was bottled in September, 1998, is undoubtedly one of the great classics produced under the Mentzelopoulos regime. In many respects, it is the quintessential Chateau Margaux, as well as the paradigm for this estate, combining measured power, extraordinary elegance, and admirable complexity. I tasted the wine on three separate occasions in January, and in short, it's a beauty! The color is opaque purple. The wine offers extraordinarily pure notes of blackberries, cassis, pain grille, and flowers, gorgeous sweetness, a seamless personality, and full body, with nothing out of place. The final blend (85% Cabernet Sauvignon, 10% Merlot, and the rest Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc) contains a high percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon. It tastes complete and long, although backward. My instincts suggest this wine will shut down, but at present it is open-knit, tasting like a recently bottled wine. The fruit is exceptionally sweet and pure, and there are layers of flavor in the mouth. I do believe this wine will develop an extraordinary perfume, and possess a high level of richness. Anticipated maturity: 2005-2040
Am I being too stingy with the 2003 Chateau Margaux? A wine of extraordinary complexity and intensity, it reveals a deep purple color, a style not unlike the 1990 Margaux (possibly even more concentrated), a velvety texture, and notes of spring flowers interwoven with camphor, melted licorice, creme de cassis, and pain grille. Not a blockbuster, it offers extraordinary intensity as well as a surreal delicacy/lightness. There is riveting freshness to this offering, which tips the scales at a lofty (for this estate) 13.5% alcohol, as well as an alluring sweetness and accessibility. It probably will tighten up over the next few years. Nevertheless, it is a profound Chateau Margaux that brings to mind a hypothetical blend of the 1982 and 1990. Anticipated maturity: 2011-2035.
A brilliant offering from the Mentzelopoulos family, once again their gifted manager, Paul Pontallier, has produced an uncommonly concentrated, powerful 2009 Chateau Margaux made from 87% Cabernet Sauvignon and the rest primarily Merlot with small amounts of Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. As with most Medocs, the alcohol here is actually lower (a modest 13.3%) than most of its siblings-. Abundant blueberry, cassis and acacia flower as well as hints of charcoal and forest floor aromas that are almost Burgundian in their complexity are followed by a wine displaying sweet, well-integrated tannins as well as a certain ethereal lightness despite the wine's overall size. Rich, round, generous and unusually approachable for such a young Margaux, this 2009 should drink well for 30-35+ years.
The 2010 is a brilliant Chateau Margaux, as one might expect in this vintage. The percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the final blend hit 90%, the balance Merlot and Cabernet Franc, and only 38% of the crop made it into the Chateau Margaux. Paul Pontallier, the administrator, told me that this wine has even higher levels of tannin than some other extraordinary vintages such as 2005, 2000, 1996, etc. Deep purple, pure and intense, with floral notes, tremendous opulence and palate presence, this is a wine of considerable nobility. With loads of blueberry, black currant and violet-infused fruit and a heady alcohol level above 13.5% (although that looks modest compared to several other first growths, particularly Chateau Latour and Chateau Haut-Brion), its beautifully sweet texture, ripe tannin, abundant depth and profound finish all make for another near-perfect wine that should age effortlessly for 30-40 years.
Consistently scoring between 98-100, the superb 1982 Margaux may be slightly bigger, bolder, and more masculine than vintages produced over the last 15-20 years. Its dark plum/purple color is followed by notes of melted tar intermixed with sweet cassis and floral underpinnings. Very full-bodied and dense for a Chateau Margaux, with a slight rusticity to the tannins, it boasts blockbuster power, richness, and impressive aromatics. It appears set for another 30-40 years of life. Release price: ($360.00/case)
A magnificent example of Chateau Margaux and one of the most tannic, backward Margauxs of the last 50 years, the 1986 continues to evolve at a glacial pace. The color is still a dense ruby/purple with just a hint of lightening at the rim. With several hours of aeration, the aromatics become striking, with notes of smoke, toast, creme de cassis, mineral, and white flowers. Very full-bodied, with high but sweet tannin, great purity, and a very masculine, full-bodied style, this wine should prove nearly immortal in terms of its aging potential. It is beginning to budge from its infantile stage and approach adolescence. Anticipated maturity: 2008-2050. Last tasted, 12/02.
Another celestial effort from Paul Pontallier and Corinne Mentzelopoulus, the 2005 Margaux, a blend of 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and 15% Merlot, boasts a dense opaque blue/purple color as well as an extraordinary bouquet of spring flowers, blueberries, black raspberries, creme de cassis, licorice, and, despite its having spent two years in 100% new wood, only a subtle touch of toasty oak. Although full-bodied, the wine seems light on its feet because of the silky tannins as well as the great gravel terroir from which it comes. Beautiful purity, length, and nobility define this modern day classic. Is it better than the 2000, 1996, 1990, or some of the vintages from the decade of the eighties? Who knows, but it is unquestionably one of the all-time great wines made at Chateau Margaux. This estate has produced only exceptional wines over the last three decades. The seamlessness of the 2005 suggests it will perform well early, but it should last for a half century or more. Anticipated maturity: 2013-2050+.
The 2010 Palmer is one of the superstars of the vintage, a blend of 54% Merlot, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 6% Petit Verdot, which is just slightly different than what I indicated two years ago. The alcohol level hit 14.5%, and the wine comes across like a more stacked-and-packed version of their 2000. It is tannic and backward, but has a sensational black/purple color and a gorgeous nose of camphor, barbecue smoke, blackberry and cassis. Full-bodied, with oodles of glycerin but a relatively healthy pH, this wine has a precision and freshness that belie its lofty alcohol and extravagant concentration. This is a sensationally rich, full-throttle Palmer that could well end up being one of the all-time great wines made at this estate. It needs a good 7-10 years of cellaring and should keep for 50 or more years. There's no question that Thomas Duroux and the staff at Palmer are producing wines of first-growth quality, and have been for nearly a decade.