2012 New World Wine Experience: Wine Star Château Margaux

Corinne Mentzelopoulos on tradition, the future and the atypical 2003 vintage at the Bordeaux first-growth
Oct 24, 2012

“Now why is Margaux so special?” asked Corinne Mentzelopoulos, the stylish owner of the Bordeaux first-growth as she returned to the Wine Experience stage this year with her estate’s 2003 bottling (98 points, $425 on release, $558 current auction price). She then led the audience through a brief history of Château Margaux and her family before focusing on the all-important factor of terroir.

“It has been 400 years since [the property’s] owners and managers have patiently been carving out its terroir,” Mentzelopoulos said. “It takes generation after generation to detect the special mound of gravelly and privileged soil and to choose the best-adapted grape varieties.”

While the team at Château Margaux, led by director Paul Pontallier, strives to interpret the estate’s terroir and respect its traditions, it is always looking to the future, she said. Among Margaux’s forward-thinking projects: a new building designed by architect Norman Foster on which construction will begin in 2013, the use of screw caps on part of the 2003 bottling to understand their effect on ageability, and the implementation last year of a traceability system on each bottle of Château Margaux to ensure authenticity.

Mentzelopoulos described the 2003 vintage as “the most precocious year since 1893”; picking began in early September due to August’s heat wave, and yields were very low. The wine blends a base of 83 percent Cabernet Sauvignon with 12 percent Merlot, plus Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.

“When young, the 2003 was not typical of Margaux, which always has an exotic style,” Mentzelopoulos said, taking a sip. “Today, however, it is becoming classic again, thanks to the terroir, which managed to add to it some smoothness and density despite the hot weather. It turned out that, after some years, the terroir took over the heat conditions.” She likened the accessibility of the 2003, even in its youth, to the 2009, 1982, 1953 and 1929 vintages.

This beautifully balanced red showed a backbone of firm, chewy tannins, well integrated with the layers of fruit, mineral and lots of exotic spice. Upon tasting the wine again, Mentzelopoulos won a chuckle and a cheer from the crowd when she said, “I’m not spitting this wine! So I might be a bit happy at the end.”

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