|Yesterday, may 14, we visited Margaux, one of the 5 grand Cruz top level wine producers. First we drove past the other 3 wineries and made a stop at Pichon-longueville for a shopping opportunity in this lovely area.
We arrived at the Chateau Margaux after driving by the three other top Chateaus in the Medoc. Another top chateau is near Bordeaux, too far away to see. We learned the these levels were set in the 1850's and are based on the soil characteristics which foster the best grapes.
On the way to the winery We passes two planted walls - very beautiful. As we walked along the master mentioned that the windy conditions of the day were excellent for drying out the overly saturated soils resulting from the previous week of rain. He also talked about the need for the owner of the Chateau to live on the propertfor the wine making to remain at its highest levels. At this time many of the Chateaus are no longer owned by families, but by large multinational companies. This one is owned by an insurance company
The master vintner gave a detailed talk about the chateau's wine making process. He spoke with a charming accent, but with my bad hearing and lack of knowledge of the subject I found it difficult to understand him. However I did learn some things. In addition he echoed some of the ideas related by the master at Chateau Saiuroc.
Both men speak of their vines like children. They compare the growth and productivity of the vines to childhood through maturity. They agree that varieties are most productive during particular ages;for ex,, Merlot (I'm not sure that this is the variety he named) produces best from the ages of 30'to 70. After this the vines must be removed and the plot replanted. Vines are placed in particular plots depending of matching the requirements of the vines to the site -- drainage, light exposure, soil type.
On harvesting, at this Chateau the berries are treated very gently. They are not dumped,into large containers which would bruise those on the bottom. They are sorted using imaging technology. They are placed in hugh concrete tanks for releasing the juice and are allowed to sit to gently release the juice. The are not pressed.
The juice is finally drawn off and put into casks. Depending on the variety, these casks will be new, second or third use casks. All the product of one plot is at this time stored together. Later the various types will be blended according to their characteristics. This cast processing time will vary depending on what the wine needs.
We looked at a storage room for bottled wine. He said that for aging in the bottles the imperial size is best. All bottles had their corks exposed. He said his grandfather had taught him that, as one doesn't wear his cap inside, the bottle does not wear it's foil inside. The structure of the variety determines the length of cellaring. Wines there may be at their peak from, for ex, 30 to 60 years.
Tasting followed. Three wines were shared. The first one, he said, was to warm the glass for those to follow. These even to me were off a much better quality than the first . The third was the oldest and was indeed heavenly.
After the tasting we said goodbye and left for our next stop, a dinner at Chateau Kirwan. First we had onion soup with a puff pastry top and a lovely white wine, signatures 2014. Next came a salad with duck breast and duck confit served with a red, Les Charmes de Kirwan 2011.The main was fillet mignon of veal in a beautiful sauce, potatoes gratin, asparagus and carrots accompanied with Chateau Kirwan 1999. Desert was chocolate Viennetta, figs in black current sauce with chocolate ice cream. All was delightful. We were bussed back to the ship where we had cheeses and Sauternes.
All in all, a busy and satisfying day.