Dating back to the 16th century, Château Margaux has been producing wine since the early 1600s, and is one of Bordeaux’s five first growths. It has long been recognised as one of the greatest properties in the world: when wine enthusiast and soon-to-be American President Thomas Jefferson visited in 1794, he asserted it was the best wine in Bordeaux. Following the revolution, the estate fell into neglect until it was bought in 1801 by the Marquis de la Colanilla, who rebuilt the striking château as we know it today.
There followed a long and eventful history, passing through various families and suffering the effects of powdery mildew and phylloxera, until the Greek businessman André Mentzelopoulos bought the property in 1977. He had a vision for the estate, and oversaw much vineyard replanting and renovations. His widow Laura and daughter Corinne assumed control on his death in 1980, and continued his work. The property is now overseen by Corinne, who was helped by the managing director, the late Paul Pontallier, who joined the team in 1983 as régisseur, and who passed away far too young in 2016.
There are 92 hectares under vine. 80 of these are red – cabernet sauvignon, merlot, petit verdot and cabernet franc – and the remaining 12 are sauvignon blanc for the estate’s one white wine, Pavillon Blanc. No insecticides are used.
The red wine is fermented in oak and spends 18 to 24 months ageing in barrels before being fined with egg whites. The white is also fermented in oak, and aged for the shorter time of six to eight months. The estate began making its second wine, Pavillon Rouge, in 1908, from younger vines and parcels that are not selected for the grand vin. Bottled earlier, this is a more approachable wine intended for earlier drinking (although many vintages still benefit from longer ageing), but which retains the trademark finesse with which Margaux has become synonymous.
Margaux itself is a wine that ages extremely well and indeed demands 10 to 15 years to begin to show at its best.