Chateau Margaux: The Most Elegant of Bordeaux First Growths

Chateau Margaux is in the Bordeaux commune of Margaux on the left bank of the Gironde River.  The wines made in Margaux are some of the most feminine in style of all Bordeaux wines.  Among the wines of Margaux, the wines of Chateau Margaux are the best of all of those.  From their perfumed nose to their lithe complexities, they are wines that reflect their terroir in a most elegant way.

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The history of Chateau Margaux can be traced back at least to the twelfth century when it was known as “La Mothe de Margaux” from motte meaning a small rise in the land.  Sometime during the 16th century, the first grape vines were planted under the direction of Pierre de Lastonnac.  Within the next hundred years, Chateau Margaux expanded to cover 654 acres, approximately one-third of that with grape vines.  In the 1700s, an estate manager named Berlon introduced many “new” improvements.  Today, his ideas are common sense, but back then they were radical.  Ideas such as not picking grapes when they were wet and vinifying the red and white grapes separately led to a much higher quality of wine.  The result was evident as by 1771 the wines of Margaux were featured in the catalogues of Christie’s.  Around that time, America’s first wine lover, Thomas Jefferson, rated Chateau Margaux as the top wine in Bordeaux.  His meticulous records document an order he placed in 1784. 

The Lord of Margaux Elie du Barry, was beheaded during the French revolution.  All of his holdings, including Margaux, were sold off as national property.  During these perilous times the property was not well maintained and was again sold.  It was “re”-purchased by a descendant of Pierre Lastonnac.  Perhaps worried about the safety of her own head, however, she quickly auctioned the property in 1801to the Marquis de la Colonilla, Bertrand Douat.  Douat was from Basque Spain and it turned out, less interested in the wine than in his social position.  He eschewed living in Bordeaux for a life in Paris.  Still, it was under his stewardship that the mansion house featured on the front label of the bottle was built.  Douat died in 1876 never having lived in the house or anywhere on the property. 

Like the rest of Bordeaux, Phyloxera attacked the vines of Margaux in the later part of the 1800’s.  Once it was discovered that French vines could be grafted onto American rootstock, Margaux recovered quickly having a bountiful harvest in 1893.  Of course, the vines were still quite young and the quality was perhaps a bit lacking.  Like the other Premier Cru’s, Margaux produced exceptional wines from time to time and very good wines in other vintages.  Around this time, Margaux first began producing a second wine.  They made it thru the two World Wars relatively unscathed. 

For more than 25 years, The California Wine Club founders Bruce and Pam Boring have explored all corners of California’s wine country to find award-winning, handcrafted wine to share with the world. Each month, the club features a different small family winery and hand selects two of their best wines for members.

In 1977 Andre Mentzelopoulos bought the winery for $16 million dollars.  Mentzelopoulos was Greek, which created quite a stir, not only in France but in the entire wine world.  The notion of a Greek in charge of one of France’s greatest wineries was difficult for many to accept.  It turned out that the worries were groundless.  Mentzelopoulos fell in love with Margaux and set about restoring its grandeur and to making the best wines possible.  He installed better drainage in the vineyards and hired the famed oenologist Emile Peynaud to help in the winery.  A second wine, Pavillon Rouge was introduced.  Unfortunately Mentzelopoulos died in 1980 at only 65 years of age.  His daughter Corrine took over as the head of Margaux. 

In 1983 Paul Pontallier was hired and took over as the Director of the winery.  Under the direction of Corrine and Pontallier, Margaux continued to invest in both the vineyards and the winery.  In 2003, after some corporate restructuring, Corrine Mentzelopoulos took over full control of the winery.