Will you let the spirit of Château Margaux bewitch you?
- By marie-armentia
- On 07/10/2016
A few days ago, I was making a guided tour in the Médoc vineyards (to the north of Bordeaux), and for once, we had enough time to go and see Château Margaux! This happens quite seldom, because this very famous winery is not located along the "route des châteaux" (road of the famous wineries). You must turn right, go behind the church, and when you come with a bus, you must park on a special parking lot and walk towards the metal gate and to peer between the bars to see the façade between the trees. Very often, guided tours don't include a photostop at Château Margaux because it takes too much time (but don't worry, there are other famous and beautiful châteaux along the road).
But this week, it was a small group with a van, so we had plenty of time, and our driver even took the main entrance to arrive just in front of the building. Look at that!
(I'm sorry about the quality, I only had my cellphone... - logo by Marililc)
I have already been there a few times, but this time, I was really astounded! When we come with a bus, we have to walk on the path on the right side of the picture. So we usually arrive directly at the metal gate, and we don't have distance enough to really enjoy the view at its best.
And yet, this wine château on top of being one of the most famous in the world, is also a masterpiece of neoclassical architecture, and it was built by an architect from Bordeaux!
The estate and the wine
Château Margaux is located in a village called Margaux, which is a very good quality wine producing area called Appellation Margaux, in the Médoc region. Château Margaux is a huge estate! Since the end of the 18th century, it is around 265ha wide (~650 acres), one third of which is planted with vine.
At the end of the 18th century, as Thomas Jefferson was the ambassador of the US in France, he visited most of our vineyards and took plenty of notes, thus creating his own classification of Bordeaux wines. He put Château Margaux at the very top, and wrote "there can be no better bottle of Bordeaux wine".
In 1855, the best Médoc wines were officially ranked for the Universal Exhibition which took place in Paris. Château Margaux was one of the 4 wines ranked in the first category, Premier Grand Cru classé, alongside with Château Latour, Château Lafite and Château Haut-Brion. Among those extraordinary wines, Château Margaux was the only one which got a perfect grade (20/20), though.
In 1977, André Mentzelopoulos (owner of the French Félix Potin department stores company) fell in love with Château Margaux and decided to purchase it. It now belongs to his daughter, Corinne.
At the beginning of the 19th century, the Marquess of La Colonilla, a Basque who got a nobility title, bought the estate and decided to replace the old manor by a new modern building. For him, the construction was more an occasion of showing his new rank in society than a residence, since he spent most of his time in Paris and took no real interest in his vines. Louis Combes, an architect from Bordeaux, built here the masterpiece of his carrier in 1815. It is often nicknamed "Versailles of the Médoc", and is one of the very few French buildings in neopalladian style. The ionic peristyle reminded André Mentzelopoulos of his mother country, Greece.
André did not dare touch to the building, and his only addition to it was a burried cellar, which is, of course, hidden and invisible.
So the estate had to wait for Corinne to take its head to welcome architectural change: for the 200th anniversary of the buidling, she asked Norman Foster (30 St Mary Axe, British Museum, Millenium Bridge, Viaduc de Millau.........), worldwide famous British architect, to build a modern cellar next to the already existing ones.
French director Bruno Aveillan directed a short movie about Château Margaux, in which he links both buildings to one common spirit, the spririt of Château Margaux itself.
And you, will you let the spirit of Château Margaux bewitch you?