Paul Pontallier is rightly pleased with their efforts at Château Margaux in 2012. The claim that the vintage was ‘almost’ a great one for them is not wide of the mark. The Grand Vin here is seriously good and a real step up from the somewhat disappointing 2011. It’s great to see this estate back on top form in a vintage that was pretty tricky. There isn’t the slightest hint of trouble in the pure, sleek Cabernet Sauvignon that constitutes 87% of the blend. It’s a terrific effort. What’s more along with Mouton and Haut-Brion, Château Margaux released at a considerable discount on recent vintages making it at least a potentially attractive en primeur purchase if you’ve the inclination and the cash.
The arc of the year here was described here as classical – a cold winter, followed a very wet spring, then an extremely dry summer, before a return to wetter weather from September 20 onwards. The whites for Pavillon Blanc were harvested between September 10-14 and the reds between 25 September and 16 October. The seriously heavy rain arrived after.
Pavillon Blanc is nicely balanced with a lot of aromatic qualities. It is the usual 100% Sauvignon Blanc, fermented in oak [30% new] and then aged in barrel for nine months. The grapes were harvested before the late September rains but the extremely dry conditions in August didn’t allow the grapes to reach the same concentration as in 2011 [Pavillion Blanc was a real success in ‘11] and necessitated rigorous selection. The final blend constitutes less than a third of the overall crop.
Pavillon Rouge is a glossy, polished offering, with cherry and blackcurrant tones and attractive minerality. The Château point out that thirty years ago this wine would have gone into the grand vin. There is no doubt that the quality of Pavillon Rouge is better today than it has ever been but it’s also risen in price substantially too in the past few years, as has the grand vin despite this year’s discount, so you would be clearly entitled to expect an improvement.
Château Margaux itself has lots of blackcurrant cassis on the nose and that beguiling Margaux perfume. It is very tight yet layered on the palate with wonderful length. It represents just 34% of the overall harvest, a strict selection that reflects the heterogeneity of the vintage. The hydric stress of the very dry and hot summer meant that some of the younger vines and lighter soils faired less well and were relegated from the blend. As I said earlier, released at 240 euros a bottle ex-Bordeaux it’s a third less than 2011, for those with enough cash in the bank, this is probably as close to a bargain as Château Margaux is ever likely to get. For the rest of us, do we go for a bottle of Margaux or six bottles of Château Rauzan-Ségla or case of Château Angludet, du Tertre, Labégorce, Siran et al for the same money? I think I know what I’ll be buying – and more on these chateaux shortly….
Pavillon Blanc du Château Margaux
Palest green/silver; candy, pear drops; full; little spice; some floral qualities; palate refreshing with some weight; nice balance; some lees influence; very measured; spice; some grapefruit; some ginger and zap at the end. Good acidity. Intense. 1000 cases. 29 hl/ha. 100% Sauvignon Blanc, 30% new oak and 9 months in barrel. 91-93+ Tasted at the Chateau Thursday April 11, 2013
Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux
Deep saturated colour; glossy; pretty nose; very attractive fruit tones; some spice, some polish and minerality; nice layers to the nose; little cherry too; sweet entry on the palate; round and nicely balanced; creamy notes; nice bite and balance. Very good effort. Quite structured and tannins very mannered and precise. 63% Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot 1% Cabernet Franc. 91-93+ Tasted at the Chateau, Thursday April 11, 2013
Mid depth; healthy looking; perfume; cassis and blackcurrant from the Cabernet; layers and perfume here; violets and depth; layered and tight yet ripe on the palate; density but not drying; very precise and focused with structure; very fine tannins; good purity overall and far, far better than 2011 here; 100% new oak but not at all noticeable. Very good length indeed. 87% Cabernet Sauvignon 10% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc. 95-96+ Tasted at the Chateau, Thursday April 11, 2013