Château Margaux and Château Lascombes in Margaux-Cantenac

Monday, April 29th, 2019 - 11:00 am (CET/MEZ) Berlin | Author/Destination:
Category/Kategorie: General, Palaces, Castles, Manors, Parks

Château Margaux © Benjamin Zingg/cc-by-sa-2.5

Château Margaux © Benjamin Zingg/cc-by-sa-2.5

Château Margaux, archaically La Mothe de Margaux, is a wine estate of Bordeaux wine, and was one of four wines to achieve Premier cru (first growth) status in the Bordeaux Classification of 1855. The estate’s best wines are very expensive, with a standard-sized bottle of the Château Margaux grand vin retailing at an average price of $639. The estate is located in the commune of Margaux on the left bank of the Garonne estuary in the Médoc region, in the département of Gironde, and the wine is delimited to the AOC of Margaux. The estate also produces a second wine named Pavillon Rouge du Château Margaux, a third wine named Margaux de Château Margaux, as well as a dry white wine named Pavillon Blanc du Château Margaux which does not conform to the Margaux appellation directives.

The estate has been occupied since at least the 12th century, with the site occupied by a fortified castle known as Lamothe or La Mothe (from motte, a small rise in the land), and wine under names such as “Margou” and “Margous” was known in the 15th century, but it was with the arrival of the Lestonnac family in the 16th century that wine production became of particular importance, and in the 1570s Pierre de Lestonnac expanded the property and cleared many of the grain fields to make way for vines. The lineage of ownership was to continue in a relatively direct path from the Lestonnacs, though through the female side, with proprietors’ names such as d’Aulède, Fumel, d’Hargicourt, including an alliance of marriage with the Pontac family of Château Haut-Brion in 1654, which became crucial to the inclusion of Château Margaux among the four first growths. By the beginning of the 18th century, the estate comprised 265 hectares (650 acres) with a third devoted to viticulture, which is nearly identical to the modern layout. As with many of Médoc’s châteaux, the early 18th century saw the wine develop from a pale watery drink that faded within only a few years, to the dark, complex liquid that has been stored in cellars ever since, and a transformation was largely due to an estate manager named Berlon, who revolutionised techniques of wine-making by introducing novel ideas such as banning harvesting in the early morning to avoid dew-covered grapes and subsequently dilution, and acknowledged the importance of soil quality in the various terroir found on the estate. In 1771, wine from the estate became the first claret to be sold at Christie’s, and upon visiting Bordeaux in 1787, Thomas Jefferson made note of Château Margaux as one of the “four vineyards of first quality”. Following the French Revolution, the owner Elie du Barry was executed by guillotine and the estate expropriated, eventually becoming the property of the citizen Miqueau who neglected its care and maintenance. Briefly rescued by Laure de Fumel, she was soon forced to sell, and in 1802 the estate was purchased by the Marquis de la Colonilla, Bertrand Douat for 654,000 francs. The estate’s old château was torn down and completely rebuilt when Douat commissioned one of Bordeaux’ foremost architects, Louis Combes, to create the buildings in the First Empire style, the mansion for the Marquis to move into by 1812. Large portions of shares in the estate were bought by the Bordeaux wine merchant Fernand Ginestet (then owner of the adjacent Château Lascombes) in 1925, and the family share was gradually increased to allow his son Pierre Ginestet to take complete ownership in 1949. In 1965, Pierre Ginestet controversially declared a new estate policy that the vintage year would only be affixed to great vintages, while selling the wine of lesser years as non-vintage wine, like the customary practice of Champagne.

Following the Bordeaux economic crisis of 1973, the Ginestet family were forced to sell Château Margaux. An attempt by National Distillers & Chemical Corporation to acquire Château Margaux was vetoed by the French government on grounds that the estate was a national treasure. This has since been reported as a Coca-Cola Company effort prevented by French President Valéry Giscard d’Estaing. A successful acquisition took place in 1976 by French grocery and finance group Félix Potin, headed by Greek André Mentzelopoulos for a sum near 72 million francs, or $16 million. Mentzelopoulos transformed the vineyard through restoring the neglected vineyard, chais, and mansion and the consultancy of oenologist Émile Peynaud. By the time of Mentzelopoulos’ death in 1980, Château Margaux was considered substantially restored to its former reputation, with the 1978 and 1979 vintages declared “exceptional”. At the beginning of the 1990s, an exchange of shares was negotiated with the Agnelli family but the management remained in the hands of Mentzelopoulos’ daughter Corinne Mentzelopoulos. In 2003, Corinne Mentzelopoulos bought back the majority stake and became the sole shareholder of Château Margaux. A bottle of Château Margaux 1787 holds the record as the most expensive bottle of wine ever broken, insured at $225,000. Margaux Hemingway received her given name from this wine.

Read more on Château Margaux and Wikipedia Château Margaux.






Château Lascombes © PA/cc-by-sa-4.0

Château Lascombes © PA/cc-by-sa-4.0

The wine produced at Château Lascombes was classified as one of fifteen Seconds Crus (Second Growths) in the original Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. In the 1950s, the estate was purchased by French wine writer Alexis Lichine who continued to own part of the estate till 1971 when Bass Charrington took over principal ownership. In 2001 it was purchased by Yves Vatelot and US-based Colony Capital, who in 2011 sold it to the French insurance group MACSF. In addition to its premier cuvee, a second wine is also produced, under the name Chevalier de Lascombes. Additional brands are Château Segonnes, Rosé de Lascombes, Vin Sec Chevalier de Lascombes and Gombaud.

In the 17th century the estate belonged to Antoine, chevalier de Lascombes, and has kept his name. Some locals suggest the estate, which is situated on the highest knoll of Margaux, takes its name from “la côte” (height) via “lascote” to “lascombes”. Antoine de Lascombes (born 1625) inherited or had possession of the estate from the Durfort de Duras family, with whose properties in the Bordeaux it remained at first integrated; wine is first mentioned in 1700. In the eighteenth century the domaine was separated from the property of the comtes de de Duras and was inherited by Jean-François and Anne de Lascombes. Jean-François de Lascombes was a councillor at the parlement of Bordeaux, king’s procureur at the Admiralty and a member of the Académie de Bordeaux (1761). The vineyard remained the property of the Lascombes family for three generations until after the French Revolution. Until 1860 the estate bore the name Domaine de Lascombes. Through sales and inheritance the estate passed through a succession of owners, until it was formed into a company in 1926, with the Ginestet family, then owners of Château Margaux, as major shareholders. During the later stages of World War II the country house served as a headquarters for the Allied forces. Château Lascombes was purchased by Alexis Lichine and a syndicate of American investors that included David Rockefeller, in 1952. Shortly before, Lichine also purchased another Margaux estate, Château Prieuré-Lichine. Lichine improved the vineyards through his expertise and commitment. In 1971 the backing company was taken over by the British brewing company Bass Charrington, bringing the Lichine era to an end. Following the acquisition by the Bass Group, winemaker René Vanatelle was recruited as the winemaker. Vanatelle carried out extensive evaluation of the terroir, now extended to 84 hectares (208 acres) of Lascombes’ vineyards and found that only 50 hectares (125 acres) actually produced wines of Deuxièmes Crus quality. In the 1980s, he began isolating these different segments of the vineyard and used the lesser quality terroir to produce a second wine known as Château Segonnes. In 1997, prior to his retirement, Vanatelle introduced a second wine of higher quality, Chevalier de Lascombes, which was matured in oak barrels (a third of which being new) for 14–20 months. Château Segonnes is still being produced, but now as a third wine. Following Vanatelle’s retirement, Bruno Lemoine, formerly of Château Montrose, was named new winemaker. In 2001, the estate was purchased for $67 million by US-based Colony Capital with the entrepreneur Yves Vatelot. The new owners invested heavily in modernizing Lascombes, which had been considered an underperformer in relation to its classification. While Lascombes has been awarded high notes for its wines by many wine critics (such as Robert M. Parker, Jr.) and managed to significantly increase the price of its Grand vin since the investment, the US owners made the château available for sale in late 2007. In 2011, Lascombes was sold to the French insurance group MACSF for 200 million euro, of which approximately 50 million euro was its stock of wine. Currently Lascombes employs Michel Rolland as consultant of oenology.

Read more on Château Lascombes and Wikipedia Château Lascombes (Smart Traveler App by U.S. Department of State). Photos by Wikimedia Commons. If you have a suggestion, critique, review or comment to this blog entry, we are looking forward to receive your e-mail at comment@wingsch.net. Please name the headline of the blog post to which your e-mail refers to in the subject line.



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