The winery is located in the municipality of Margaux in the Médoc (Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux) in the area of the same name. Its origins date back to a property called "La Mothe de Margaux" owned by the Albret family in the 12th century. After several changes of ownership, the Lestonnac family gave the estate its current extension of 260 hectares of land with gardens and magnificent plane tree avenues. In 1802, Bertrand Douat Marquis de La Colonilla (1742-1816) bought the estate and demolished the old Gothic manor house to build the château. In 1977 the naturalised Greek André Mentzelopoulos bought the estate from the previous owner Pierre Ginestet for 72 million francs (9.15 million euros). The new owner invested at least the same amount again in a new underground cellar, as well as vineyards, gardens, buildings and facilities.
With the support of the famous oenologist Professor Émile Peynaud (1912-2004), far-reaching changes were made, which, after a dry spell lasting over a decade with rather average wines, already had an effect on the excellent and outstanding 1978 vintage. After the death of the owner in 1980, the listed company was continued by his daughter Corinne as CEO. However, the former Fiat boss Giovanni Agnelli owned the majority of the shares with 75%. After his death in January 2003, the Agnelli heirs sold the share, with Microsoft boss Bill Gates also named as an interested party. Finally Corinne Mentzelopoulos took over all Agnelli shares and is now the sole shareholder. Paul Pontallier has been responsible as general manager since 1983.
At the famous Bordeaux Classification in 1855, the estate was placed among the elite of the five best "Premier Cru Classé". It is also known as the "crown jewel of the Médoc" and its wine is a model of elegance and finesse. The gravel and stone vineyards on clay soil cover 93 hectares of vines, 81 of which are planted with red varieties and 12 with white varieties. These are Cabernet Sauvignon (75%), Merlot (20%), Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot (5%), and Sauvignon Blanc (100%). This extremely long-lasting red wine is aged for 18 to 24 months in 100% new barriques. About 300,000 bottles are produced annually. This red wine should only be opened after 15 years. The best vintages after the Second World War are 1945, 1947, 1949, 1950, 1953, 1966, 1978, 1979, 1980, 1981, 1982, 1983, 1985, 1986, 1988 and 1989, 1990, 1995, 1996, 1998 and 2000. The second wine is called "Pavillon Rouge" and has the same maturation conditions as the first wine. The Château is one of the few Bordeaux vineyards that also produces excellent white wines. The "Pavillon Blanc" is produced from a vineyard in Soussans and is made from the variety Sauvignon Blanc. The long-lasting wine develops only after four to five years of storage. Around 40,000 bottles are produced annually.
Several bottles of the 1787 vintage were in the possession of US President Thomas Jefferson (1743-1826), who was US ambassador to France at the time. One of them was tasted in 1987 by the famous wine author Michael Broadbent (1927-2020) and was judged as follows: "Bouquet of great richness and depth with a lively, full-bodied taste and perfect finish". In 1989, the wine merchant William Sokolin (1930-2015) organized an exquisite dinner at the New York restaurant "Four Seasons", where a Château Margaux from (allegedly) Jefferson's property was to be sold in a media-effective manner at the proud price of $ 500,000. But before it could be sold, it was broken up due to carelessness. Fortunately, the bottle was insured and the insurance company allegedly paid $ 225,000; it is one of the most expensive (never consumed) wine bottles in the world. The US actress and model Margot Louise Hemingway (1954-1996) was the granddaughter of the famous writer and Nobel Prize winner for literature Ernest Hemingway (1899-1961), who appreciated the red wine from Margaux. After learning that she was named after the wine of Château Margaux, which her parents had drunk the night she was born, she changed the spelling of her first name from "Margot" to "Margaux".
Château Margaux: © Benjamin Zingg