The quality of Château Margaux 2017 comes close to its illustrious predecessors without pretending to rival the generosity of 2015 or the elegance of 2016. Nonetheless, it has a rightful place in the estate’s lineage of great vintages: it is profound, complex, intense and long. In some respects, it even surpasses our hopes following September’s rainfall and demonstrates yet again to what extent great terroirs are capable of transmitting all their best qualities into the wine.
The initial tastings in the winemaking process offered a moment of astonishment. The Merlot batches are remarkable: the aromas are fruity and soft, a roundness on the palate and rich volume made it possible to include them in a proportion of 8% for the first wine. The Cabernet Sauvignon is always the heart and the framework for Château Margaux, accounting for 89% of the blend. Upon tasting, the tannins were perfectly ripe, which reassured us that our decision to wait a few more days before harvesting was the right choice. The wines’ structure remains a rare combination of power and refinement. Cabernet Franc (2%) and Petit Verdot (1%) round out the blend for this wine. Château Margaux represents 37% of the harvest. (April 2018)
CHÂTEAU MARGAUX HONOURS PONTALLIER WITH 2015 BOTTLE
Château Margaux is to bottle its 2015 vintage with a special edition design that pays tribute to the late Paul Pontallier and marks the estate’s 200th anniversary.
It is the first time in the château’s history that a different design other than the usual white label featuring the famous Palladian house has been commissioned.
As the estate explained in a release, 2015 was a notable year for Margaux in three ways; both triumphant and also, ultimately, tragic.
To begin with 2015 marked the estate’s 200th anniversary, for which new winemaking facilities were built by Sir Norman Foster, secondly it was an exceptional vintage for the first growth which was widely considered the best wine of 2015 by many merchants and critics but also, sadly, it was the final vintage overseen by longstanding technical director Paul Pontallier who died in March 2016 after a long illness.
The bottles have been decorated with a screen print that features the château, the entrance of the new chai designed by Foster and his team and a note to Pontallier at the bottom.
As the château said in its statement: “By means of this unique bottle we wish to immortalise the 2015 vintage which seems to have been created for eternity and which will remain a fantastic vintage for all of us, tinged with very special emotion.”
PHILIPPE BASCAULES APPOINTED MANAGING DIRECTOR OF CHÂTEAU MARGAUX
Mrs Corinne Mentzelopoulos, owner and manager of Château Margaux, has announced today the appointment of Philippe Bascaules as Managing Director of Château Margaux starting the 1st of March 2017. Philippe Bascaules, an agronomist engineer, has a thorough knowledge of Château Margaux's estate, having been its Estate Director between 1990 and 2011 under the leadership of Paul Pontallier, General Manager for 33 years and sadly prematurely deceased last spring. For the past 5 years Philippe Bascaules has been Managing Director of Inglenook, the Californian wine estate of Francis Ford Coppola, where he will be supervising the technical decisions.
At Château Margaux, Philippe Bascaules will rely on the experience of Aurélien Valance, HEC graduate and Deputy Managing Director who has worked at Château Margaux for 15 years, as well as that of Sébastien Vergne, agronomist, oenologist and recently promoted to Estate Director. Philippe Bascaules will also be reunited with Olivier Pinon, Managing Director based in the head office in Paris where he has been working since 1983. Corinne Mentzelopoulos thus reasserts her wish to rely on a competent, loyal and experienced team who will undeniably sustain the tradition of excellence Château Margaux has pursued over the past 5 centuries, while simultaneously maintaining its constant quest for progress and innovation. Corinne Mentzelopoulos and her daughter Alexandra are delighted at the return of Philippe Bascaules, whose brilliant career, quite logically, goes on at Château Margaux: "During the 20 years he spent at the estate, we all deeply valued Philippe's competence and wisdom. His great knowledge of the estate is an invaluable asset with which to guide and prepare the future of Château Margaux". "I am very honoured Corinne Mentzelopoulos has appointed me Managing Director of Château Margaux and I like to think that Paul Pontallier would have been happy for me to carry on his work. I am thrilled to be reunited with my former colleagues at Château Margaux and delighted to be working on the wines and vineyards of the estate" Philippe Bascaules adds.
Paul Pontallier of Château Margaux – 1956 to 2016 / Few Bordeaux châteaux manage to transmit the warmth, friendship and pleasure that comes with wine in the same way that Château Margaux did under the direction of Paul Pontallier.
Paul Pontallier, who died on 28 March aged just 59 years old, had been managing director of first growth Château Margaux in Bordeaux since 1990. He would have turned 60 on 22 April.
Margaux a ‘perfect fit’
Hired by owner Corinne Mentzelopoulos – following a recommendation from his mentor Emile Peynaud – just three years after she stepped into her father’s shoes, the two shared a complicity and friendship rarely seen between owner and director. Together they worked to ensure that the transformation of Château Margaux that had begun under André Mentzelopoulos continued until it reached the exalted position it holds today.
A partnership ‘unsurpassed’ – Steven Spurrier
Decanter consultant editor Steven Spurrier described their partnership as ‘something that has never been surpassed even by that of Jean-Bernard or Jean-Philippe Delmas with Haut-Brion. It is difficult to imagine Margaux without him’.
Born in the Bordeaux region, Pontallier spent his early life on his parents’ wine estate, Château La Loge Saint-Léger in AOC Bordeaux Supérieur and went to the city’s most exclusive school, the Catholic-run Sainte-Marie-Grand-Lebrun.
He first considered a career as a doctor, and once told Decanter.com in an interview that ‘wine was so natural to me that I couldn’t imagine it being a serious career choice’.
But, he decided to follow his heart into agriculture. He gained his first degree in 1975 from the Institut National Agronomique Paris-Grignon that is today known as AgroParisTech. From there he specialised in oenology and viticulture, first in Montpellier and then at the Bordeaux Institute of Oenology in Talence, where he wrote his PhD on the effect of barrel ageing on red wines.
Joining Château Margaux
His first seven years at Château Margaux were spent alongside Philippe Barré, and he took over as managing director when Barré retired in 1990. Under his direction, Château Margaux delivered consistently magnificent vintages and confirmed its position as one of the world’s truly great châteaux.
Outside of Château Margaux, in 1984 Pontallier started the venture that would become Domaine Paul Bruno in Chile with his longtime friend Bruno Prats, and also consulted for Stellenbosch’s Plaisir de Merle. More recently he helped his son Thibault Pontallier with the creation of the Pont des Arts wine brand. But there is no doubt that he will forever be linked to Château Margaux, a place that he loved and frequently said he would never be tempted away from.
An ‘extraordinary talent’
‘The world is a sadder place today for the loss of Paul Pontallier,’ Decanter’s managing director, Sarah Kemp, said. ‘An extraordinary talent, an extraordinary man. He was the embodiment of the wines he crafted; elegant and refined. His humanity and kindness enriched many lives. He will be missed.’
Philippe Bascaules, who worked alongside Pontallier for eleven years at Château Margaux before joining Francis Ford Coppola at Inglenook in 2011, said, ‘I admired not only his humility but his passion. He used to say that doubt is the driving force of all scientific research. This was something that he felt very deeply, and that made him both very open and very human. (Decanter)
An extensive collection of wines, drawn directly from our cellars, from the 1900 vintage up to the present day has been put up for auction. It is the first time in the history of Château Margaux that an auction has been entirely dedicated to our wines. The sale, which was organised last Saturday by Sotheby’s Wine, in New York, was a remarkable success. The entirety of the 239 lots, which had an estimated value of $1.4 million, was sold for a total of $2.8 million! Among the lots offered for sale were exceptionally rare vintages such as those of 1900, 1929, 1945, 1953, 1961, 1982 and 1990. A balthazar of Château Margaux 2009, estimated price between $30 000 and $50 000, was greeted with incredible enthusiasm and sold for $98 000. The auction surpassed all our expectations! A bottle of Château Margaux 1900, a legendary vintage, sold for $61 250, six times its lower estimate! This sale paid great homage to Château Margaux, as well as to the Mentzelopoulos family, owners since 1977.
TWO CENTURIES OF ARCHITECTURE IN TRIBUTE TO A GREAT WINE
On June 14th and 16th this year, Château Margaux celebrated the bicentenary of its architecture. In 1810, the Marquis de la Colonilla, then owner of Château Margaux since 1801, requested one of the greatest architects of the time Louis Combes, to design a new layout for the estate whose wines had been famous since the XVI century. The old buildings were demolished, except the XVIII century Orangery which served as a cellar during the construction. The project was completed in 1815. This building complex, which was registered as an Historic Monument in 1946, has remained unchanged until the present day.
Two centuries later, Corinne Mentzelopoulos, the current owner, decided to entrust the design of a new extension to the prominent British architect, Lord Norman Foster, with a view to responding to the challenges of the XXI century, with the construction of a new cellar next to the old ones with a Research and Development Centre in the middle, the construction of an underground Vinotheque and finally a new vistor centre to welcome the thousands of visitors who come from around the world.
Corinne Mentzelopoulos hosted the international press, on June 14th, at Château Margaux, for the dinner of the Conseil des Grands Crus Classés en 1855. Bordeaux wine merchants and importers were also invited on June 16th. On this occasion, Château Margaux inaugurated the new buildings designed by Lord Norman Foster. The dinner, prepared by three Michelin star - Guy Savoy, ended with a film about the bicentenary of Château Margaux architecture, directed by Bruno Aveillan.
End of the harvest
How wonderful this 2014 harvest is! Just about the opposite of last year… The weather is still magnificent and so we’re picking the plots that have reached full maturity in quite a leisurely fashion. The alcohol content is high, very high even, and the acidity intense; a quite rare balance. We are exactly halfway through the harvest. By this evening there will only be five days left, and the weather forecast remains excellent! Today it’s the « gerbaude », the traditional celebration to mark the end of the harvest. We finished the day before yesterday with the Petit Verdots, magnificent again this year. The cellar is far from full, but fortunately, the yields are largely superior to those of last year, without however reaching the average for the last ten years. Let’s not complain, the quality looks magnificent, as good for the Merlots as for the Cabernet Sauvignons. Of course, for 2014, we will have missed the beautiful month of August, so essential for very great vintages. But so many other examples have shown that a beautiful Indian summer can lead to a very good - almost great - vintage; we have good reasons to think that it will be the case for 2014. Let’s look forward to the moment of the blending to see what we have.
Our main team arrived yesterday. Most of them were part of last year’s harvesting team, and a lot of them have been loyal to us for years. Last week was very quiet ; we only picked two plots of particularly early Merlot. It’s really now that things get serious ! The fine weather is staying with us and the forecast is excellent, at least until the end of this week. The prospect of a very good, or even a great vintage is starting to become a reality…