Margaux

 Chateau Margaux

 

 

This great appellation on the Left Bank of the Gironde estuary produces stunning, fragrant, elegant wines and is famous the world over for it. Home to the 'First Growth' Chateau Margaux itself and one third of all the classified growths. These wines can possess a classy fragility but also rich intensity. When they get it right it is totally magical. Sadly the soils can vary quite a lot here so not all the Chateau do so well every year. That's why a bottle of supermarket 'Margaux' can often prove to be a disappointment despite costing £12. It is likely to be a blend of lesser Chateau pooling their average wines in a co-op fashion. Still, generally if you buy into Margaux you're likely to be getting violets, cedar & blackcurrant aromas & wonderfully silky smooth wines - some of those are on offer here in the TBC Shop.

Chateau Margaux is the top dog in the appellation. It's the only 'first growth' in Margaux-the highest classification awarded to the Left Bank AC's in 1855. Above is the view from the regal iron gates that loom you as you drive through the vines. Top vintages with bottle age can cost £1000 a bottle but they tend to start around £200 when first released. A simple, classic label (no vulgar over embellishments!) brands the highly complex juice inside.

Margaux 2005Chateau Margaux is well worth a visit if you are in the area. It's a fine example of a large old world estate (78 hectares) with an impressive neo-classical Chateau at it's heart. Perfectly situated next the Gironde estuary, the terroir here is exceptional. The gravelly soil is perfect for producing top notch Cabernet Sauvignon but they also have some clay deposits on which Merlot fairs better. This helps to smooth off the power of the Cabernet in the final blend. A very decent Sauvignon Blanc is also produced in limited quantities.

Chateau Palmer is generally considered to be the second best estate in Margaux. Though classified as a 'Third Growth' in 1855 it really is much closer to being a 'First'. It has the look of one too! (see below) There is much debate about re-classifying the Left Bank to allow such promotions though wine consumers and merchants tend to know the pecking order regardless! So do the Chateau who price their wines accordingly. A bottle of Palmer will set you back between £70 and £150. It is incredible wine though and tends to have a higher Merlot content than Ch Margaux.

Chateau Palmer Though this is expensive wine, of course it's very important for the Chateau to price their wines correctly. Supply and demand is as significant in Bordeaux as anywhere in the world. Palmer can charge this much for their wines simply because year after year people are prepared to pay for it! Top Clarets are exclusive and exquisite brands that deliver perfection. Given that much of Bordeaux is blessed with fantastic terroir, all that it's possible to do, in terms of nurturing vines and fashioning the fruit into spectacular wine, is done at such Chateau. All that leaf thinning, green harvesting, hand picking, strict selecting, cold soaking and oak barrel aging doesn't come cheap! Still, I would say that wine that is 50 times more expensive than another is not necessarily 50 times better. If you are looking for great Bordeaux that's made this way, you can easily buy it for less that £30 a bottle. If you must have a Ch Margaux though, be prepared to dig deep! A lot of such wine is bought as an investment rather than a drink...a bit sad really. As a small merchant I get to taste and sell the top estates but not quaff them at home. I'm happy with that as I personally like to drink the second and third tier of Bordeaux that can offer real value at £10-£30 a bottle. Here are three of my favorite Margaux's...

Chateau Kirwan is a charming 'Third Growth' property owned by the Schyler Bordeaux merchant ('negociant') family.

Kirwan 1999 From 1990 onwards the family started investing heavily in the vineyard and the results have been really excellent. It's generally a blend of Cab Sav, Merlot and Cab Franc with a bit of Petit Verdot added in hot vintages. The 2005 is stunning but Kirwan also performs well in lesser vintages like 1999, 2002 & 2004. These are great value fragrant Margaux's that display the typical elegance  with high quality tannins and aromas of graphite & black pepper. There's often a peppery tinge on the  Chateau Kirwanpalate too which I love! It's also a delightful place to visit for a tasting with a particularly nice garden. (below) When I made the jump from buying supermarket and Oddbins (etc!) wine, to seeking out and experimenting with fine wines, I found that Ch Kirwan was one of the first Chateau that worked for me...ie; I really liked it over a number of vintages and I felt that it was worth spending the extra £15 for! Later on, when I started to supply gastropubs with such wine, I found this Chateau was one of the most popular brands too. It just kind of works as a mid range Bordeaux. It will never soar like a Palmer or Ch Margaux but it's not that far behind! The price is thankfully way behind though. This brings me to an equal favorite that is perhaps even better value...

Chateau Du Tertre is a brilliant drinking wine to have in your cellar, but it also ages gracefully and is very much a fine wine. The 2004 was in my top 3 of the vintage and I'm sorry to say I've finished it all now...at a very tender age! I could of course buy more but knowing what I paid for it first time round, compared to what it will cost now, I'd rather move onto the 06, 08's. (I have cases of these in stock btw!) All I have left of the 04's is the picture below...

Du Tertre 2004 The terroir is sandy gravel with good drainage due to a hill and a stream. Again it's a Cab sav (40%) & Merlot (35%) dominated blend but they have a nice parcel of Cab Franc & Petit Verdot too. The wines are hugely seductive, rich and creamy. In tastings it always stands out as a sexy, immediate wine. I often get aromas of chocolate and ripe plums & cherries. If you are thinking of buying your first case of fine Margaux, then you won't go wrong with Du Tertre!

Other Margaux's to look out for are, Ch D'Angludet...The 08 is a delicious bargain! Ch Ferriere..small but perfectly formed! Ch D'Issan...a TBC bestseller 3rd Growth, Ch Giscours old, old estate owned by Du Tertre folk, Ch Lascombes..Second Growth terroir at Third Growth prices, Ch Rauzan Segla, Second Growth terroir at Second Growth prices!! Ch Prieure Lichine Fourth Growth and a final value pick Ch Siran...not classified but a supple & rich stepping stone to the big boys above. I have stocked all of these wines at various times and can vouch for them all to provide superb quality in their own field...have a look at the Margaux section in the stocklist? If you don't see something there that you want, it's always worth asking me in case I can source a specific wine for you and import it with my next shipment from Bordeaux...