So, I know – the Primeur tastings ended last week – but I attended so many tastings – that it will take me a couple of weeks to get all the tasting notes on the blog in a way that will do them justice – so keep checking back daily for the net couple of weeks – I will be adding one tasting per day to the blog.
Today, I am going to talk about the tasting at Chateau Margaux. Each of the 1st growths (Lafite, Latour, Mouton, Margaux, and Haut-Brion) do not give samples to any of the other tastings in Bordeaux during Primeur (not negoce tastings and not the UGC tastings) – so the only way to get to try these wines is to get a scheduled appointment to taste them at the Chateau. I scheduled three of those appointments this year: Margaux, Lafite, and Latour. My notes on the Lafite visit and the Latour visit will be posted tomorrow and Wednesday.
The private visits all take the same basic form: You arrive at the chateau at your scheduled time – you are formed into a group – led into a tasting room or area, provided with a short description of the vintage, and then presented with the wines.
We were told that it was a difficult growing season at Margaux that resulted in a small crop. It was a very wet spring and the vines got used to having a lot of water. That was followed by a very dry summer with no rain in August at all. Which was then followed by a rainy harvest. Chateau Margaux only received 34% of the grapes grown – the rest were put into Pavillon Rouge and then the 3rd and 4th label.
2012 Pavillon Rouge: The family has made great strides to increase the quality of the Pavillon Rouge wine. With the dramatic price rises in the last few years – the family was very concerned that people would get a bottle of Pavillon Rouge and be disappointed. So, they have made significant changes to it – it now largely comes from the same plot every year and it has a much larger percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon now (about 70%). After having tasted the wine – I can attest that this new style of Pavillon Rouge is very different and better than Pavillon of a few years ago. One of the tasters I was with said that he felt that Pavillon Rouge now has its own distinct identity as a wine and it is not just the second label of Ch. Margaux. I am not sure about that – because to me it is still very “Margaux” styled. I felt that the wine had a nice primary cassis fruit nose dominated by Cabernet and that the wine was elegant and balanced with a long finish and soft silky tannins. It was actually one of the nicest Left Bank wines I had on my trip – outperforming some of the 2nd growths in St. Julien. Buy some. I am going to.
2012 Ch. Margaux: This is probably the best Left Bank wine that I tasted in the 2012 vintage. The grand vin got only 34% of the fruit in 2012. It has a deep, deep colour with a beautiful perfumed nose. It was open already at this stage and beautiful and elegant. The tannin management was incredible and it had a long, long finish. This wine will need a long time to age but the the density and power is there along with the elegance and balance. We were told by the Chateaux – that if we had not had the 2009 and 2010 Ch. Margaux’s (which are unbelievable) then we would consider 2012 as a classic Ch. Margaux vintage. I agree with them and I would recommend buying some of this wine – especially if the prices come down.
2012 Margaux White: 2011 was an exceptional vintage for the white Margaux and so it is hard to compare 2012 to it. The 2012 does not have the same kind of flavours and complexity but the quality of the wine is improving every year. It was pale gold in colour with an explosive nose of flinty steel, ripe peaches and a hint of smoke. The nose really surprised me – I expected more cut grass aromas from the Sauvignon – but this wine was dominantly white fruits – almost like a Semillon – except that this is made from 100% Sauvignon. On the palette, it was medium bodied with good acidity and a long salty finish mixed with rosemary and herbs. Very good wine.
Overall – these were by far the two best reds I tasted from the Left Bank and I recommend them for purchasing if the prices are reasonable.
On a side note: Chateau Margaux is one of the estates that is the most dedicated to experimenting to improve the quality of its wines. In fact, they have two oenologists on staff whose main purpose is to run experiments. I remember, the first year I came to Bordeaux, I met a young oenologist who was studying at Bordeaux II who was doing some work at Ch. Margaux on the difference between corks and screw caps – at that time the evidence was inconclusive – we did get into a pretty heavy argument though about Brett (but I will save that for another blog post). . .
Well – to get back on track – at the tasting we were told that Chateau Margaux has been experimenting with many things: corks, caps, concrete eggs, organic practices, etc. They want to make improvements to their wine – but they are not going to implement changes unless it has been proven to actually improve the wine. Organic practices is one of the experiments that seems to be working and the Chateau would like to have more and more of its production be organic in the future. Bravo for that!