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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.
This complicated year taught us many lessons, as it differed completely from the usual, very probably too simple, pattern of the great vintages. It may well be that the heavy rain which came at the end of September was, in fact, a help to the ripening of the Cabernet Sauvignon, as it very probably was the case in 1995, rather than the opposite as we feared. Whatever the explanation, this vintage ended up producing a wine which will go down in history for its classicism and purity. The Cabernet Sauvignon has seldom achieved such a perfection of style and such good balance. What is even rarer perhaps, is to find in a young wine, only just after its blending, the ability to impress and move us at once through the purity of its fruit, the density of its structure and the harmony of its shape.
After a very quick flowering, the summer was unsettled, with alternating periods of hot and cool weather and stormy showers, though less heavy in the Médoc than on the right bank. As from the 1st September, cool and very dry weather set in for three weeks. It then rained and fine weather returned for the harvesting of the Cabernets. (The picking began on 23rd September)
It was 1977, and young, 24-year-old Corinne Mentzelopoulos was very impressed as she stepped out to the bright white stairway of the palace that was built in the 19th century. They had just finished lunch that had taken place in a dark, ramshackle dining room. She could not yet foresee that as a result of the handshake between the two gentlemen on the stairs, her life would soon change. Her father, André Mentzelopoulos, became the first Greek winegrower in Bordeaux, as he bought the Château Margaux from Pierre Ginestet for 75 million francs. The historic estate had changed hands once again.
The estate has been occupied since at least the 12th century, but it was only with the arrival of the Lestonnac family in the 16th century that wine production became of particular importance, and in the 1570s Pierre de Lestonnac cleared many of the grain fields to make way for grapes. By 1700 the estate covered its present area of 265 hectares, and the 78 hectares devoted to vines has remained essentially unchanged since then.
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…
Today Corinne Mentzelopoulos, supported by her team led by Paul Pontallier, and following in her father André Mentzelopoulos' footsteps, devotes her time and energy to radiating her enthusiasm for this wine, whose name is synonymous with greatness, balance and harmony.
Pontallier drew most of his learning and production philosophy from Peynaud. Respect for the unique terroir of Margaux and applying this philosophy to wine in every unique year without the label of the wine maker represents Peynaud’s view that Pontallier has kept on honourably since Peynaud stepped aside from wine production in 1990.
The active and close co-operation between Pontallier and Mentzelopoulos has produced magnificent vintages: 1983, 1986, 1989, 1990, 1995, 1996, 2000, 2003, and 2005. It remains to be seen how well the new generation can continue Corinne’s success in the history of the estate. It is certain that she is not stepping aside for a long time, but when she looks 50 years to the future, she says:
– Who knows what the world will be like then? I just hope my children are still around and are here managing the estate. But can things get much better for Margaux, when it already is in the minds of all wine lovers of the world? Should I keep my fingers crossed?
Soil: gravelly, clay-limestone
Production area: 82ha
Grape varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon (at least 75%), Merlot (between 10 and 15%) and finally Petit Verdot (around 5%) and a little Cabernet Franc
Average age of vines: 36 years
Harvest method: hand picked
Winemaking: The wine is fermented in oak vats
Ageing: over 18-24 months in new French oak barrels
Tél. : +33 (0) 5 57 88 83 83
Fax. : +33 (0) 5 57 88 31 32
The 1996s stand as a “classic” Bordeaux year, although – as Jancis Robinson MW has written – not in the “skinny” sense; although Farr Vintners’ director, Tom Hudson, told the drinks business that it was perhaps a “very good” rather than a “truly great” year as it wasn’t uniformly excellent across the region.
By way of a recap, 1996 was a particularly sterling vintage for Médoc wines. The Berry Bros & Rudd website extolls: “This is one of the great post-war vintages for Médoc Cabernet-based wines. They are rich, complex and beautifully balanced wines, packed with ripe, pure fruit and have the structure that will allow the top wines to age well into the next decade and beyond.”
The Right Bank by contrast are described as “distinguished” but “overshadowed” by the ‘95s – which was an especially good vintage for Saint Emilion and Pomerol.
It was also an excellent vintage for white Bordeaux.
Robert Parker’s scores tend to favour the Left Bank, though a few of the very best wines of the Right Bank received very respectable reviews as well.
Only two wines received 100-points: Lafite and Latour, Margaux was rated 99, Léoville Las Cases 98, Ducru Beaucaillou 96 and Pichon-Comtesse 96.
La Mondotte was the highest rated Right Bank wine on 97-points, Ausone was the next best rated on 93 as was L’Eglise Clinet, while Gomerie, Petrus and Le Pin settled for 92 and Cheval Blanc for 90.
With the passage of nearly 20 years, the wines have naturally appreciated and now that they are well into their drinking window demand will almost certainly begin to push prices up even further for the most in-demand among them.
The figures are often impressive, to date Lafite has seen a rise of 657.9% since its release, its second wine Carruades is up 592%, Latour has risen 437%, Petrus 400% and Pichon Baron 240%.
Recommended glass shape
Average Bottle Price
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