Margaux are the lightest wines of the Médoc, but they are perhaps the most potentially seductive from the (commnunal) appellations of the Haut-Médoc district of Bordeaux.
Margaux is the most southerly, most isolated, and most extensive of the Médoc’s communal appellations. It is made of several non-contiguous parcels of the best portions of vineyard land (with reputation inferior parcels qualifying merely as Haut-Médoc). The appellation takes in not just the substantial village of Margaux, but also the neighbouring communities of Cantenac, Soussans, Labarde, and Arsac.
A great Margaux in a top vintage has an undeniable floral, berry-scented bouquet backed up by the smell of new oak, licorice, and earth, In body and tannin, Margaux wines, despite elevated percentages of Cabernet Sauvignon, tend to mature more quickly than the St. Juliens, Pauillacs, or St. Estephes. For bouquet lovers, the best wines of Margaux can be compelling. At their stereotypical best, the wines of Margaux combine the deep ruby colour, with a structure and concentration of any top quality Médoc, however with a seductive perfume and a silkier texture than is found to the north in Saint Julien, Pauillac, and Saint Estephe.
Within its boundaries there are inevitably considerable variations in both topography and soil types, limestone, chalk, clay, and sand, but most of the finest wines should come from gentle outcrops, where gravel predominates and drainage is good. Properties in Margaux are particularly parcellated and intermingled, with one estate often comprising very different, and often distant, plots of land. Chateaux Margaux, for example, has vineyards in both Cantenac and Soussans.
Margaux has consistently enjoyed enormous fame, and more Margaux properties were included in the 1855 Classification of the Médoc and Graves (more than 20) than from any other appellation. The appellation clearly still has great potential, but in the 1970s and much of the 1980s a worrying number of châteaux failed to keep pace with the substantial improvements in wine quality achieved in the other three major appellations of Bordeaux. Therefore, until the late 1990s, the overall quality of the winemaking in this appellation was lower than that of any other appellation in the Médoc, but these under performers have now largely disappeared.
Chateaux Margaux itself is the single first growth, standard-bearer as well as name-bearer for the appellation. There are five second growths within the appellation, Chateaux Rausan-Ségla (Château Rauzan-Ségla) , Rauzan-Gassies, Durfort Vivens, Lascombes, and Brane-Cantenac. Ten 3rd growths, including Chateaux Kirwan and Chateaux Palmer who could be said to have represented the appellation with glory and consistency in the second half of the 20th century.