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Bordeaux 2015: Château Margaux

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

IMG_0899Château Margaux has produced one of the wines of the vintage in 2015, probably the wine of the vintage. It is seductive and beautifully balanced, displaying power and harmony. The tannins are silky and the wine has exceptional length. It is easily on par qualitatively with the 2009 and 2010 here. Only 35% of the crop has gone into the grand vin, and only 23% into what is probably the best ever Pavillon Rouge. This is remarkably strict selection in a vintage as special as this one in Margaux. The property has also produced an exceptional Pavillon Blanc, again undoubtedly among its finest. All the wines are a fitting tribute to the late, great Paul Pontallier.

Corinne Mentzelopoulos, the owner of Château Margaux, is one of the friendliest and most down-to-earth proprietors you are likely to meet. She was at the château on the morning of my visit. It was ‘super’ Tuesday when they were set to welcome 800 people to the property in a single day. Merchants and buyers were coming up offering their condolences to her and Pontallier’s son Thibault. There is no doubt that the loss of Paul Pontallier had come as a shock to everyone. It marks a sudden end to a remarkable double act between Mentzelopoulos and her general manager that had spanned several decades. And yet…and yet in a very real way [and I’m not a religious man] you felt Paul Pontallier’s presence, so much is his personality  woven into the very fabric of the place. Somehow we weren’t tasting his wine in the new Norman Foster designed cellar without him.

A little background on the vintage. As elsewhere in the Margaux appellation in 2015, dry and sunny weather in the spring at Château Margaux was perfect for vine growth and flowering took place in ideal conditions. June and July were very hot and dry but vine stress was relieved by rain that arrived in August. This also encouraged a quick and even veraison. September was dry, with warm days balanced by cool nights, preserving freshness in the grapes.

Given the even and quick flowering earlier in the season and the accelerated growth early on, the growing season allowed for ten or so additional days than the average year prior to the vendange. The harvest for the reds took place between September 8 and October 6. The grapes were small in size with a high concentration of tannin. Potential alcohols were high, but the conditions also provided good freshness and acidity.

As mentioned at the top, selection for Pavillon Rouge was strict. Infact the estate now produces half the quantity that it did in 2005. The aim, would appear, to produce a wine that mirrors the grand vin in style, although with considerably more Merlot [21%] in the blend.

As if to confirm 2015 as a great vintage, all the varieties grown on the property made it into the blend for the grand vin. It is principally Cabernet Sauvignon [87%], with the remainder comprising Merlot [8%], Cabernet Franc [3%] and Petit Verdot [2%]. The wine weighs in at 13.5% on the alcoholic scales. The composure of the wine is reflected in phenomenal balance and harmony.

A word or two about Pavillon Blanc in 2015. This white has been produced at the property since the 1920s but has gone from strength to strength in the past decade or so. The 2015 rendition has wonderful race and minerality with a refreshing saline twist at the end. It is the result of extremely low yields [20hl/ha] and very strict selection [only a third of the crop made it to the final blend].

The following notes were taken on Tuesday 5th April 2016.

Pavillon Blanc du Château Margaux, Bordeaux Blanc, 2015

Brilliant looking; polished silver; very fine aromatics; sea salt and mineral tones; appetizing and clean as a whistle; lees influence on the palate; medium bodied with real zing; saline twist again on the end. Lovely stuff. [100% Sauvignon Blanc, 10,000 bottles made]. Drink 2019-2025. 93-95+

Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux, Margaux, 2015

Deep colour; fresh; lovely aromatics; very voluptuous; sweet, creamy blackcurrant cassis; very opulent; seductive; tremendous aromatics for Pavillon; some stony elements; very intense palate; a real coiled spring; no second wine this; very precise indeed; nice length; some warmth at the end. Very complex. [74% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, 1% Cabernet Franc, 14% alc.] Drink 2022-2035. 93-95

Château Margaux, Premier Grand Cru Classé, Margaux, 2015

Deep and beautiful looking; lovely vibrant purple edge; beautiful, pure fruit; sense this will be very harmonious indeed; more blackcurrant cassis notes unfurl from the glass; very seductive stuff; wonderfully balanced on the palate; seductive fruit tones continue; elegance and intensity; tannin at the end is wonderfully ripe. This is potentially perfect Margaux. No better tribute to the great Paul Pontallier. [87% Cabernet Sauvignon, 8% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc, 2% Petit Verdot, 13.5% alc]. Drink 2025-2050. 98-100


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