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Since the 17th Century, the first wine of Château Margaux has been recognised as being one of the greatest wines in the entire world. It owes its unique qualities to the genius of its terroir as well as to the passionate work of a succession of generations. It’s a remarkable wine that comes from a combination of characteristics that are only rarely found: finesse, elegance, complexity, density, intensity, length and freshness. Although its tannic concentration may be exceptional, it’s rare to detect astringency.
The great vintages are distinguished by their formidable ability to move us. The lesser vintages give pleasure to wise enthusiasts. They offer the advantage of evolving very rapidly and, reveal, after a few years, instead of power, this subtlety that is the prerogative of great terroirs. Château Margaux has an extraordinary ability to evolve. Over the years, it has developed a finesse, an aromatic complexity and a remarkable presence on the palate.
Château Margaux has sought to achieve excellence in its wines for over 400 years now through painstaking and necessarily long studies of its terroir, through a constant desire to learn and innovate, by remaining sensitive to demanding markets, and above all through a passionate commitment that has been shared by the families that have succeeded each other at the estate. At the end of the 17th century, it became part of the nascent elite “First Growths” – long before being established officially by the Classification of 1855. Since then, Château Margaux has known fame and fortune, seeing by experience how ephemeral both are.
The estate has 200 acres under vine. Each plot and each variety are treated differently from pruning throughout the growing season. Chateau Margaux’ goal is to nurture and maintain vines for as long as possible, as they believe vines need to reach 20 years of age to produce great wine. The estate is constantly trying to understand through experimentation how to improve soil health and fruit quality. Today, no insecticides are used, there is an important balance of healthy insects to counter pests, and any number of experiments with ploughing, organic farming, and biodynamic applications are ongoing. A final key point to note, Margaux has for the last 30+ years had among the lowest yields in the Medoc.
The wine was aged for 15 months, in 10% new oak and 90% second use barrels. Because of the particularities of the vintage, Cabernet Sauvignon made up an extremely high 88% of the blend, with Merlot only 12% of the blend. Importantly, the wine is held in bottle until ready to drink, which may not mean that vintages are released sequentially.
The 1964 vintage left its mark on the Bordeaux wine region : those wine growers who had finished harvesting before the rain set in, were so relieved that for many years they chose the easy option of always picking early; those producers who harvested after the rain, swore that they would never get caught out again... This great fear pushed many wine growers into rushing the start of picking for many years, which perhaps explains why certain vintages like 1970 and 1975, which were harvested hastily, were a little disappointing. At Château Margaux that year, we rushed slowly... About half of the crop was harvested before the rain, the other half, unfortunately, in the rain and painfully. The incessant rain caused a rapid decline in the health of the crop; the last grapes brought in were severely affected by rot. Château Margaux 1964 carries the trace of this mixed parentage : it is a very good wine, but could have been a great one. Today, it displays a fine, deep, complex bouquet; it is quite long on the palate, it lacks a little density and flesh, but finishes with elegance. To be enjoyed now. (February 2008)
After an early flowering, the summer was very favourable, with hot, dry weather. September was particularly hot, which allowed the grapes to reach an excellent level of ripeness. But as from 5th October, it did not stop raining for three weeks... (The picking began 21st September)
For many the 1964 vintage conjures up images of a truly unique year. It was that in Burgundy, but not Bordeaux, even though the French minister of agriculture declared it to be the vintage of the century in Bordeaux. He made his declaration before the autumn rains began to fall. The vintage was, at any rate, a very good one, quite reminiscent of the 1962, whose large crops produced excellent wines.
The mild, wet winter was followed by a warm spring. The ideal conditions enjoyed during the germination period stayed dry and hot throughout the summer. The grapes ripened beautifully all the way until 8 October, when three weeks of extremely heavy rains pushed into Bordeaux, causing the greatest damage in Médoc, primarily at Pauillac and Saint-Estèphe. Some of the region’s producers had managed to bring their entire harvests in before the rains. One of these fortunate ones was Château Latour. One of the less fortunate was Château Lynch-Bages, which finally brought its harvest in on 24 October. This vintage, however, favoured the right bank’s Merlot-driven wines, which ripened well before the rains. There are very few drinkable wines at this time. Once again, the Cheval Blanc and Pétrus rise above the other, also in price. An interesting development in 1964 was Mouiex’s acquisition of shares in Pétrus.