The Tasting Panel magazine

August 2015

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98  /  the tasting panel  /  august 2015 STEVEN SPURRIER'S LETTER FROM LONDON O n a gloriously sunny evening on Sunday, June 14, on the second day of Bordeaux's bi-annual Vinexpo fair, 480 guests including 275 journalists from 37 different countries were welcomed to Château Margaux by owner Corinne Mentzelopoulos and her family. The occasion: a tour of the new cellar and winery buildings cre- ated by internationally famous architect Lord Norman Foster to celebrate the 200th anniversary of the opening of the château itself, certainly Bordeaux's most impressive and memorable private residence. The co-host was Philippe Casteja, President of the Conseil des Grands Crus Classés, 160 years after this world-renowned classification was created in 1855. Although there have been many, many changes both of ownership and of vineyard holdings of the 88 estates classified in the Médoc and Sauternes during this time, there has been only a single change to the established ranking, with Mouton- Rothschild moving from a Second to a First Growth in 1973. The 1855 Classification was established on the demand of Emperor Napoleon III, who wished to present the finest products of the French Empire at the Exposition Universelle de Paris that year. One hundred and sixty years is a long time in the history of wine production, and the Bordeaux region has suffered from wars, pestilence and climatic and eco- nomic calamities which have seemed to threaten its survival, but today the quality produced by the Crus Classés is better than ever, with Margaux, along with the other three First Growths of the Médoc, unquestionably leading the pack. The vineyards of Château Margaux date from the mid 17 century under the d'Auledes family, and by the early 1700s the wines were already estab- lished as one of the most sought-after of the Médoc. The well-known Fumel family maintained that reputation until the château was confiscated during the French Revolution, being purchased in 1802 by the Marquis Douat de Colonilla. It was the Marquis who employed architect Louis Combes to build the impressive and totally elegant Palladian-influenced château, which was conceived to be an aristocratic centrepiece surrounded by an agricul- tural village devoted to the production of wine. Building began in 1811 and was finished in 1815. The château itself seems ageless, and the Louis Combes vision, despite the passage of time, was still in place when Lord Foster was invited to construct a new chai in 2011. As explained in his evocative yet modest speech at the opening of the dinner, his orginal idea was to create something new—one can think of Frank Gehry at Rioja's Marqués de Riscal or Christian de Portzamparc at Cheval Blanc—but the more he visited the estate and regarded the historical records, the more he was drawn back 200 years. The result is total harmony (the key element in a great wine) with the past. The new building extends the agri- cultural village—it does not compete with the château, which remains the "protagonist" of Margaux. But unlike the historical buildings, the one-and-a- half-story roof canopy is supported on elegant tree-like columns which touch the ground lightly, drawing the eye up through the rafters to the sky above. Looking down, only then does one realise that the interior is modern. Such a timeless conception belies the vagaries that Château Margaux suffered since that of Louis Combes was completed 200 years ago. The estate changed hands frequently in the 19th century, the quality of the The new cellar at Château Margaux was designed by British architect Lord Norman Foster. Celebrating 200 Years of Château Margaux PHOTO: SAISON D'OR/MATHIEU ANGLADA

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