Margaux is the most famous appellation within the Bordeaux region of France and produces some of the world’s very best red wines. Located in southwestern France, the Margaux appellation produces primarily red wine, which is typically a blend of multiple red wine grapes known as “Bordeaux blend.”
Perhaps the most famous producer of Margaux wine is the Chateau Margaux, which has been producing wine in the region since the 1100s. At this time, the estate was a fortified castle known as La Mothe. La Mothe started producing wines called “Margous” in the 1400s. A century later, the Lestonnac family took over the estate, expanded the property and truly kick started its wine production.
Ownership of the estate passed in a direct familial line, albeit through the female side of the family, and by the 1700s, it had grown to 265 hectares, a third of which was devoted to wine production.
In the 1700s, Margaux wines were transformed from a relatively watery beverage to the stronger, more complex wines we know today. At Chateau Margaux, this is due to the influence of Berlon, an estate manager who completely changed the way the estate produced its wines. Berlon stopped the workers from harvesting grapes in the morning as they would be covered in dew, which in turn diluted the wine, and also placed more importance on the terroir found on the estate. Berlon’s gamble paid off and in 1771, the auction house Christie’s sold its first wine from Chateau Margaux. In 1787, Thomas Jefferson recognised the Chateau as a vineyard of high quality on his tour of the Bordeaux region.
During the French Revolution, the owner of the estate was executed and it fell into disrepair.
The vineyard passed from hand to hand for the next 200 years or so until it was acquired in 1976 by the French company Felix Potin, who helped to restore the vineyard to its former glory. Ever since, the vineyard has had an unparalleled reputation in the region.
The Margaux appellation was created in August 1954 and is acknowledged for being among the most strict in the world. However, the severity of such rules has helped to produce some of the best known, most treasured wines in the world.
The climate in the Margaux region is mild and oceanic, with an average yearly rainfall of 925mm and about 200 hours of sunshine per month.
The soil in the area is extremely gravelly, which provides excellent drainage, and is low in nutrients. While this might sound counterintuitive, well drained, low-nutrient soil is best for grape vines as they have to send their roots deeper into the soil in search of water and nutrients, making the vines stronger and hardier.
With 1,355 hectares under vine, Margaux is the second largest appellation in Medoc. The area produces 9.5 million bottles of wine a year across its 80 chateaux and vineyards.
99% of the wine produced in the region is a red Bordeaux blend, which is generally a made up of Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and Malbec.
From the 1855 Bordeaux Classification, Margaux has 21 cru classe properties, more than any other Left Bank appellation. The cru classe classification, or first growth in English, is the highest level of the Bordeaux wine classification.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot are the dominant grapes grown in the region.
Cabernet Sauvignon is one of the most common red wine grapes in the world. It is a relatively new variety, which is a cross between the red wine grape, Cabernet Franc, and the white wine grape, Sauvignon Blanc. Cabernet Sauvignon produces full-bodied wines that blend well with other red grape varieties, making it an essential part of the Bordeaux blend.
At Chateau Margaux, both red and white wines are aged in oak barrels. Red wines are aged about 18 to 24 months in new oak barrels, and white wines are aged for 6 to 8 months.
Wines from Margaux are rich and full-bodied, with aromas of toast, truffle, coffee and red fruits. Margaux wines are a dark garnet colour, and can be aged for over 50 years, all the while maintaining their smoothness.
Alongside Chateau Margaux, other notable producers include Chateau Brane-Cantenac, Chateau Lascombes and Chateau Giscours.