Bottomless Pours at Chateau Margaux
Post by Alex Shaw | April 2nd, 2012
Here in Bordeaux, two words inspire more reverence than any others: First Growth. Thanks to the 1855 classification system, there are only five First Growths (Lafite, Latour, Haut Brion, and Margaux, with Mouton added to the group in 1973), and they are widely considered to produce the finest wines from the Left Bank. We were lucky to taste all five on Monday, an excellent exercise that shed some light on the possibilities of the top end of the 2011 vintage. For many, including myself, the First Growth that inspires the most passion, even reverence, is Chateau Margaux, so it was with great anticipation that I looked forward to dining there that evening.
Many who visit Bordeaux will recognize Margaux – the chateau and the grounds were constructed 200 years ago (from 1810 to 1815), and many have gazed through the gate, 100 or so yards up the driveway, at this monumental chateau. I’d tasted the wines and toured the cellars multiple times, but the chateau, sitting majestically behind the gate, was always a thing of untouchable beauty. It would not be a stretch to call it the grandest of all the Bordeaux chateau.
A chill ran down my spine as I saw the famous gate open for us. As we drove up, we were greeted by Margaux’s Technical Director, Paul Pontallier, who for several decades has been in charge of making one of the world’s greatest wines. Following a tour of the cellars and a tasting of Margaux’s three wines: Margaux – soft, supple and complex, with classic elegance; Pavillon Rouge – the best second wine we’ve tasted thus far; and Pavillon Blanc – a stunning example of the heights attainable for white Bordeaux, we were led into the chateau.
Walking up the massive front steps was an experience I’ll never forget, and looking around at my colleagues, I knew I was not alone. The evening would prove to be unforgettable on every level. We were joined by Margaux’s owner, Ms. Corinne Mentzelopoulos, and her lovely daughter Alexandra, which was rare and exciting. We dined on lobster with foie gras, rack of lamb, cheeses and sweets. And the wine…oh the wine!
We enjoyed a glass of Krug Grand Cuvee with hors d’oeuvres, then turned our attention to the wines chosen to accompany dinner: the 2001 Pavillon Blanc, 1999 Chateau Margaux, and the 1989 Chateau Margaux. They were absolutely outstanding – the Blanc had multilayered flavors of seashell and vanilla that unfolded throughout the evening. And the reds were exactly what you’d expect of Margaux: mind-blowing. The 1999, just beginning to reach maturity, was vibrant and elegant with red fruit and a silky texture. The 1989, with secondary notes of cassis and violets, was a wonderful example of how gracefully and elegantly Margaux’s wines age.
Tasting two vintages of a First Growth side by side is an event, but this was above and beyond. We never saw any of the actual bottles because the staff kept our glasses full. Everyone was drinking and appreciating these great wines, and as the meal went on laughter got louder, conversations became more animated, as if someone had turned up the volume in the room.
Bottomless Chateau Margaux…how many times in your life does that happen!