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White wine production at Château Margaux goes back to the end of the XVII century. The cellar master at that time recounts how he was one of the first to separate the white grapes from the red during the vinification. Sold in the XIX century under the name « Château Margaux vin de sauvignon », it has existed under the brand name « Pavillon Blanc du Château Margaux » since 1920 and its label has not changed since that date.
The eleven-hectare vineyard is composed only of Sauvignon Blanc. It is situated on a very old plot of the Estate that had long since been planted with red vines and then been dug up because of the high risk of spring frosts. Production techniques, as well as the selection have been completely reviewed since the years 2009/2010 in order to reach a higher level of excellence; only 1/3 of the harvest is bottled, the remaining 2/3 is sold loose. So the quantity of Pavillon Blanc has been greatly reduced and isn’t more than one thousand cases. Today it benefits from the new wine cellar’s ultra-modern installations designed by Norman Foster.
The finesse, complexity, richness and the length in the mouth of Pavillon Blanc are incomparable for a wine produced from 100% Sauvignon. The very latest vintages, 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014 in particular, have opened up new horizons in quality, ageing capacity and style which has become more mineral and much more complex. A significant part of the harvest is bottled in magnums which create optimum ageing conditions.
One of the greatest vintages of Pavillon Blanc ! Never before have the grapes reached such a high level of sugar, and generally speaking, such a level of concentration. This astonishing result is undoubtedly due to the very unusual weather conditions which dominated the end of summer: both very dry and cool, with a persistent north wind. The 1996 Pavillon Blanc is a particularly powerful and concentrated wine, with an amazing length on the palate. Today, it is still going through that tricky phase when the wine loses its aromatic appeal without yet having gained in complexity. It is better not to drink it now. However, we are today beginning to see the first eagerly awaited signs coming through in the tasting. (March 2010)
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%.