One of the most recognised appellations in one of the world’s Premier wine-growing regions, Margaux holds an esteemed position in winemaking folklore- but why? What makes it so special? It’s long history? It’s climate? Soils? Chateaux/People? Today we’ll try and find out just what it is that makes the name Margaux synonymous with quality in the world of wine.
First things first, Margaux has enjoyed incredible acclaim for a long time; whilst only possessing one 1st Growth (Ch Margaux), across all 5 Growths, Margaux has more wineries (20 in total!) in the famous 1855 Classification than any other region in the Medoc, meaning across the board, the region has very high potential for greatness. In addition to this, and probably a contributing factor to the large number of highly esteemed Chateaux, is that Margaux is the largest appellation in the Medoc, with almost 1,500 hectares of AOC Margaux vineyards. The region is so big that it is sub-divided into 5 communes, each with a different orientation and a few famous names; In the north of the appellation is Soussans (Ch La Tour de Mons),right in the centre of the appellation is Margaux (Chx Margaux, Palmer & d’Issan), then following the river south is Cantenac (Chx Kirwan & Prieuré Lichine), then Labarde (Ch Giscours) and finally the least known, furthest away from the river and right on the freeway is Arsac (Ch d’Arsac).
Across the Margaux appellation and all these smaller communes, the landscape is a patchwork of different soil types, with sections of limestone, chalk, clay and sand, with the best sites on low hills of gravel. In the rest of the major Medoc regions (St Estephe, St Julien and Pauillac), Chateaux are clearly defined and walled off from each other, however as a function of the size and variability across Margaux, houses here own different plots of land from all over this large appellation. This means that, historically speaking, the most successful producers are not necessarily those that lucked out in owning the best sites, but those who had the deepest pockets and bought the best plots to mix together. And you’ll not be surprised to discover that the top Growths such as Chateaux Margaux, Rauzan-Segla and Palmer all have a selection of the finest plots from the region. This blending across communes and varied soil types is what gives Margaux its seductive style. In a fairly broad sense, Margaux wines, whilst still possessing the structure, colour and concentration of the region, are described as the most seductively complex, perfumed and silkiest of all major Medoc appellations. This can be attributed to the melange of different styles from the sub-regions which when blended together create a final wine that is better than the sum of its parts.
Whilst AOC Margaux only allows the production of red wines, one of the most famous whites in the Medoc originates from this appellation under the AOC Bordeaux classification; Pavillon Blanc, made by Chateau Margaux. This Chateau is by far the best-known of the whole appellation, and, as most of you would be aware, produces its most expensive wine. Vineyards owned by Chateau Margaux can trace their history back to the 16th century, and for several centuries gained renown in London as one of the famous four ‘New French Clarets’, captured during the Anglo-French wars in the early 18th century. Its fame became legendary when former US president Thomas Jefferson picked Chateau Margaux out as one of the ‘four vineyards of first quality’. This Chateau is also important to the region because it is one of the very few in the Medoc to be named after its appellation. Over the centuries, a producer of such high quality having the same name as the appellation has lent an air of class and quality to the region as a whole.
In Margaux, some of the grapes grown here are practically worth their weight in gold, and over the past few decades, several big players have spent huge amounts of money in the region, buying up and restoring vineyards and Chateaux, mostly to the benefit of the region and those who drink it’s wines. Some examples of this are French insurance group AXA owns a large share of 2nd Growth Chateau Lascombes, couture house Chanel own 2nd Growth Rauzan-Segla and the Sichel family (who made their fortune with the world’s first wine brand, Blue Nun) part-own 3rd Growth Chateau Palmer.
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