Chateau Margaux is one of the most important estates in Bordeaux, it is one of the 5 First Growth producers in The Mèdoc Classification of 1855. Like many Chateaux in Bordeaux, Chateau Margaux went through many changes in ownership and has suffered a period of underinvestment and variability in the quality of their wines.
Brief History of Chateau Margaux
To put the history of Chateaux Margaux in short, it all begun in the 12th century under the name ‘La Mothe de Margaux’, the Lestonnac family took over in the 16th century, restructured the property and focused more on producing wines than grains. The Lestonnac family continued the ownership (through the female side) for two centuries until the French revolution. The property was confiscated and the ownership changed hands several times. In 1925, a Bordeaux wine merchant, Fernard Ginestet bought the majority stake in Chateau Margaux, and his con Pierre Ginestet took complete ownership in 1949. Following the Bordeaux economic crises in 1973, Ginestet family sold the Chateau to Andre Mentzelopoulus in 1977.
Chateau Margaux turned a new leaf when Mentzelopoulus restored the vineyards, modernised the cellar, and hired Emile Peynaud as the consultant. Renovations were completed in 1982, just in time for the brilliant 1982 and 1983 vintages in Margaux. Under the management and ownership of Mentzelopoulus, the quality of Chateau Margaux improved from the early 1980s.
Another important event was hiring Paul Pontallier in 1983 as a technical director at Chateau Margaux on the recommendation of Emile Peynaud. Pontallier was 27 years old when he joined Chateau Margaux in 1983. Within 7 years, Pontallier was named managing director of Chateau Margaux, a truly impressive achievement for a 33 year old to become a MD at a First Growth Bordeaux estate. Pontallier directed some of the greatest vintages Margaux has ever created, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1989, 1990, 1995, 1996, 1999, 2000, 2001, 2003, 2005, 2006, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2012, 2014 and 2015. Sadly Paul passed away in March 2016, the gates at Chateau Margaux was closed for a week and he will be missed by everyone.
Vineyard and Production
Chateau Margaux has 82 hectares of red wine grape vines, 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc. The red juices are fermented in oak barrels and aged in 100% new oak for 22 months. Like many First Growth Bordeaux including Chateau Haut Brion, Chateau Margaux has been reducing the production of the Grand Vin to increase the quality of tightening the grape selection. From annual production of 20,000 cases in the 1980s to currently about 12,000 cases in recent vintage. Since 2009, 1% of the grapes used in the Grand Vin are whole cluster, adding a touch of stem fragrant to it, Burgundy-esque.
The second wine of Chateau Margaux is Pavillon rouge du Chateau Margaux. The amount of wine goes into Pavillon rouge du Chateau Margaux varies across vintages, 38% of the harvest went into Pavillon rouge in 2010, and 23% of the harvest went into Pavillon rouge in 2015. The production size of this second wine is greater than the Grand Vin. In recent vintages, the production of Pavillon rouge du Chateau Margaux is 16,000 cases.
From 2009, the quality of Chateau Margaux and Pavillon rouge du Chateau Margaux improved as Chateau Margaux introduced a third wine, Margaux du Margaux. The remaining grapes are sold in bulk.
Chateau Margaux also makes a dry white wine from 100% Sauvignon Blanc, Pavillon Blanc du Chateau Margaux. It is a rather unique approach in Bordeaux to not blend with any Semillion. The annual production of the Pavillon Blanc du Chateau Margaux is approximately 1,600 cases.
Pavillon Blanc du Château Margaux
Pavillon Blanc du Margaux 1983
1983 was an excellent vintage in the Margaux appellation, quality matching the great 1982. Some wines outside the Margaux appellation is good but some dilution. The Sauvignon Blanc grapes in Margaux ripened exceptionally well in 1983. The 1983 Margaux Pavillon Blanc only showed subtle tertiary development, it still carried great freshness for a 35 year old wine, much more youthful than the 1983 Margaux rouge. Bright gooseberries, pear fruit, light wax, supple texture and wood spices. Aged Pavillon Blanc Margaux develops very intriguing umami flavours, adding more complexity to the wine. Ripe fruits and vibrant acidity. (92/100)
Pavillon Blanc du Margaux 2001
2001 was an excellent vintage for Bordeaux Blanc, many 2001 Sauvignon Blanc and Semillon in Bordeaux achieved good concentration, great fruitiness and high acidity. Chateau Margaux Pavillon Blanc is always 100% Sauvignon Blanc, and 2001 Very young and vibrant, gooseberry, spiced lemon, leesy wax, honeysuckle and vanilla wood. Great concentration of fruits and aromatic profile. The high acidity is well-balanced with the ripeness. Airy, only revealing it’s slight age on the palate. A long way to go. (92/100)
Chateau Margaux 1958
A naked Margaux. There is no oak hiding the true Chateau Marguax style and terroir. A wonderful Margaux with perfumed nose of dried cherry, violet and mixed spring flowers, fruit peel, vague oak spices and dried fruits. Distinctive Margaux floral notes and Chateau Margaux elegance. Overall Bordeaux 1958 is not quite the 59 and 61 quality but also a good vintage. Light bodied with subtle structure and purity. (89/100)
Chateau Margaux 1966
Great condition bottle with very high shoulder fill. An honour to drink this bottle of Margaux even though Margaux was in a less glamorous period in the 50s-60s. Apparently this bottle was the best of the case. The fruits are present but fading along with its glory. Fully mature showing leather, cherry, black truffle, forest floor and tobacco. Drying out on the palate, plush texture with the remaining charm. Mellowing as I write this review. (90/100)
Chateau Margaux 1971
Tasted blind- Guessed it was Bordeaux Left Bank from the 60s. Sweet fragrant of left bank, very mature, showing a slightly stewed fruit aroma and cloudiness, seems to be on the downhill. Very surprised to see this was a 1971 Margaux, this shows how well this ‘bad’ vintage showed. Good concentration with a ‘mineral’ edge at this age, but fruit was slowly dropping. Some charm but missing some elements from riper vintages. Could 1971 be an underrated vintage in Bordeaux? Reminds me of 1991 Burgundy. (88/100)
Chateau Margaux 1978
First growth purity from the classic 70s, some qualities can only come from older vintage top wines. Excellent condition bottle and good provenance. Superb classic Bordeaux concentration and balanced matured flavours are what makes these pricey labels ‘worth’ it. Complex nose of aged cassis, tobacco, berries, Spanish jamón, spices and smoke. Tannins are soft but leaning towards unripe. Silky smooth tannins and seductive in mouth. A whopping 40 seconds impressive finish. Lovely to drink now but needs to be drunk sooner than later. (90/100)
Chateau Margaux 1982
Unleash the beast – An extraordinary Ch Margaux with hedonistic aromas. The 1982 magic is here! Fully mature, much more ready than the 1986 Gruaud Larose served next to it. Sweet fragrant, very complex and very ripe Merlot on the nose. Margaux taste with perfect balance and great expression. Quite advanced for a 1982 First Growth but great to drink now (bottle top shoulder fill). The dazzling fragrance and incredible depths of Chateau Margaux is irresistible! Great concentration and sweet fruits of 1982. Gorgeous! (96-97/100)
Chateau Margaux 1983
Tasted non-blind. 1983 Chateau Margaux is muscular and powerful wine. Rich and structured with lots of depth. 1982 seems to be more graceful than the 1983, but the last bottle of 1982 I tasted was 4-5 years ago. This should age for another half a decade. (89-90/100) Note: this review was written in May 2020, after my score calibration, so it should be around 95pts in my old scoring system.
Chateau Margaux 1984
Could this be the best wine of the vintage? 1984 is one of the weakest vintage in the 80s in Margaux appellation. Despite from a poor vintage and most people would assume these wines are over the hill, this bottle is rich and quite sensational. Lovely richness of a first growth from an average vintage, lovely elegance that is distinctive to Margaux. Structure could be better, but complex aromas of fruits, fur, liquorice, exotic spices in depth, delicious tannins and a long finish. Drink soon. (90/100)
Chateau Margaux 1986
Tasted blind – Rich, Bordeaux blend, fragrant herbs, gravel underbrush, sexy wood spices and volumous texture. 2006 Pauillac? (Yep, my Burgundy palate needs a lot more calibration when it comes to Bordeaux!) Potentially Pomerol but First growth quality for sure. Very young for what it is. Margaux fragrant showed up after an hour. (95/100)
A spectacular Margaux from an tannic vintage, and it takes a lot of time to open up. Powerful and opulent. Mature aromas and dense meaty nose, recommend double decanting for 1-3 hours. Richer than many other vintages from Chateau Margaux. Sophisticated, perfect amount of oak smoke and spices balances the rich mature flavours of Earth, truffle, cedar, faded black currant. It’s an unusual Margaux, structured, full-bodied, more masculine, tobacco, smooth and exceptional finish. (95/100)
Chateau Margaux 1988
Chateau Margaux, perhaps the most feminine wine among the famous first growth wines. From their elegance and complexity, it reflects the terroir of Margaux in an excellent way. The maturity of this 1988 Chateau Margaux is at the peak. Very approachable and entertaining. A bright ruby rim. The dulcet tone of cork popping sound is satisfying for a 1988 Margaux. Rich, feminine, explosive oak spices and tobacco. It has aged to an optimum time, saturating, sweet tannins, mushroom. Not the most charming and dense wine of Margaux but a great effort. (92/100)
Chateau Margaux 1990
Chateau Margaux 1990 is a wine of elegance, complexity and finesse. Rich and lavish red fruits. Floral and silky on the palate. Some tertiary aromas on the nose but sturdy, took some time to release the Margaux fragrant, still a bit backwards. Unlike other ripe and flamboyant 1990 Bordeaux, Margaux 1990 is tight. Balanced and lengthy 1 min long finish. Reminds me of the structure of 1983 Palmer, solid backbone with dry finish. Delicious to drink, though not 100point on my scale. I prefer the perfect 1996 Margaux. (95/100)
Chateau Margaux 1995
It’s hard to find a First Growth Bordeaux more elegant than Margaux! 1995 was not quite as exuberant as Margaux 1999 served next to it initially. But after aerating in decanter for 4 hours, it revealed its massiveness and outshone Margaux 1999 by a tad. Great concentration and sophistication. Lots of structure and still a bit too young to drink. A great vintage but will always be inferior to the magnificent 1996 Margaux. Lots of chewy tannins and structure to withstand many more years ahead. (95/100)
Chateau Margaux 1996
A joy to revisit Bordeaux occasionally, especially with first growth Bordeaux. This 1996 Margaux is maturing at a glacial rate and you can feel there is still much raw material that needs to be tamed and nurtured. Fragrant and majestic, a charming bouquet of dark fruits with underlying sweet berries and fragrant herbs. It has developed more complexity since my last bottle three years ago, violet and dried meat with round tannins. One of the most complete and finesse driven Chateau Margaux every produced. Wait another 3 years. (95/100)
Chateau Margaux 1999
Ch. Margaux and Palmer performed very well in 1999, they’re harmonious and attractive, and it’s really showing great today. Unlike the other 1999 Bordeaux, which are generally thin and fading. Similar to Palmer 1999, Margaux 1999 is perfumed and very accessible. Both 1999 Chateau Margaux and Palmer are seductive and pure. Aromas of truffle, blackberry, pencil shaving. Openly complex and expressive. Margaux 1999 is the goddess and Palmer 1999 is silky and powerful. Both are blockbusters, but in terms of value, hands down Palmer 1999 wins! (95/100)
Chateau Margaux 2013
2013 Margaux is an unusual Margaux, this is the first ever time Margaux didn’t put any Merlot into the final blend. With 94% Cabernet Sauvignon and 5% Cabernet Franc, I think 2013 is the weakest vintage for the past decade for red Bordeaux. Despite the terrible vintage, Ch. Margaux managed to make a very charming and refined wine. Sweet oak fragrant, medium minor bodied, not shy on acidity, fair effort but won’t make it into first Growth standard. Drinking well now and will last for 8 to 12 years. (89/100)