Margaux, Château

Appears in

Oxford Companion to Wine

Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

  • About

Margaux, Château, exceptional building and the most important wine estate in the village of margaux in the Bordeaux wine region, and a first growth in the 1855 classification. There is much potential for confusion since both Ch Margaux and generic wine from the commune of Margaux are colloquially referred to as ‘Margaux’, but the former is likely to cost many times more than the latter.

With vineyards dating back to the 16th century, Ch Margaux was one of the four New French Clarets captured in the Anglo-French wars at the beginning of the 18th century, and sold in the coffee houses of the City of London (see bordeaux, history). Thomas jefferson on his visit to Bordeaux in 1787 picked it out as one of the ‘four vineyards of first quality’. Sequestered in the French Revolution after the owner’s flight to England, it was bought by the Marquis de la Colonilla in 1804 and rebuilt in the First Empire style, by L. Combes, as we know it today—the grandest château of the Haut-médoc. After passing through several hands, shares were bought by a Bordeaux wine merchant, Fernand Ginestet, in 1925, and the family share was slowly increased to give his son Pierre Ginestet complete ownership in 1949. Also a merchant, he was badly hit by the ‘energy crisis’ in the early 1970s and had to seek a buyer. The French government refused to allow the American conglomerate National Distillers to buy it, but in 1977, the château was acquired by the French grocery and finance group Félix Potin, headed by the Greek André Mentzelopoulos, domiciled in France. A great deal of money was spent on restoring the neglected vineyard, chais, and mansion and Émile peynaud was taken on as consultant. André Mentzelopoulos died suddenly in December 1980, and first his wife Laura and then his daughter Corinne took over control, assisted by Paul Pontallier, the young director who joined the estate in 1983 (coincidentally one of the property’s most successful vintages). Between 1992 and 2003 the Italian Agnelli family of Fiat motor cars became involved in ownership of the estate, but Corinne Mentzelopoulos remained in charge and is now the sole owner with her children. A brand-new winery designed by British architect Sir Norman Foster has been in place since 2014 with a research lab, a particular interest of Pontallier’s, given pride of place.