First Growth Focus – Château Margaux

As the first part of a mini series on the First Growths,  Lucy Barber, Lay & Wheeler’s Buying Co-ordinator gives us an introduction to the great estate of Château Margaux:

With its tree-lined driveway and beautiful 19th-century house, Château Margaux is the embodiment of Bordeaux’s luxury and refinement. As one of the original premier cru of the 1855 classification, it is a firm fixture on the primeur trail, as the world’s wine trade and Bordeaux aficionados get to grips with the latest vintage.

Overseeing the whole operation is owner Corinne Mentzelopoulos, whose father bought the property in 1977 and began the revival of this great château with investment and an injection of knowledge and passion. Alongside her is the dedicated oenologist and MD, Paul Pontallier, and between them they have overseen the continued development of the estate. The hard work has paid dividends and the wines are truly great, always showing finesse, concentration and an intense aroma.

Lying in the most southerly of the Médoc communes, the estate has 82 hectares of red varieties within the Margaux appellation, with around 75% of the area planted with Cabernet Sauvignon. The remainder is Merlot (20%),  plus Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc (5%). Sauvignon Blanc covers another 12 hectares. Production of the grand vin, Château Margaux, totals approximately 150,000 bottles a year, with the highly-regarded second wine Pavillon Rouge making 198,000 bottles. Unsurprisingly, the white, Pavillon Blanc, produces considerably less at just around 33,000 bottles.

The majority of the vines lie on gravelly soil and, at harvest, strict selection takes place in the vineyards and in the chai. The wine is vinified in wooden fermenters, as opposed to stainless steel, and is aged in barrel for 18 – 26 months depending on the vintage. Whilst barrels from a variety of forests and with different levels of toast are used, a third are made at the cooperage  on the estate.

Following a highly successful year on the secondary market, Château Margaux has recently announced their plans to launch a third wine this year, which – having been kept back in bottle – will be the 2009 vintage. The growing interest in Margaux on the marketplace was shown in February 2011 when 2005 and 2006 Château Margaux traded at all-time highs on the Liv-Ex exchange. Having been the first claret to be sold at Christie’s in 1771, perhaps now is the time for Margaux to be the next first growth to capture the market’s imagination?

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