By Manos Angelakis
The Bordeaux wine classification of 1855 is not really that relevant in 2013, since many of today’s top wineries, Château Petrus for example, did not exist at the time of the classification, and many of the classified vineyards owned by famous wineries have expanded, shrunk or been divided, without any reclassification; it is well understood that numerous plots of the very valuable Bordeaux terroir have changed ownership since that time. Many of the leading estates from the Médoc that were not even included in the 1855 classification are now classified as Cru Bourgeois, a classification that has been updated on a regular basis since 1932, banned in 2007, but reinstated in 2010.
It is still considered a badge of honor to have been classed as a Grand Cru Wine in 1855, and many of these wineries have been replanting their vineyards, upgrading equipment, employing different wine-making techniques, hiring young winemakers and in general updating their image and wines to keep up with the times.
I had lunch the other day with Ludovic David, the general manager of Château Marquis de Terme, a Margaux Quatrieme Grand Cru winery, once part of the vast Rauzan estate. I love wines from the Margaux appellation and, even though I refuse to pay what Château Margaux is currently charging, it does not mean that I would not buy other wines that I consider as good but priced much more logically.
With 37 hectares of vines planted mostly with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and a soupçon of Petit Verdot, Château Marquis de Terme produces wines that I consider as having great finesse. Ludovic, a jovial young man, is dedicated to not only keeping up the image of the Chateau as a great producer, but also modernizing the winery and maintaining the quality of the wines. Part of his innovations is keeping grapes longer on the vine and lowering the vineyard yields. Another innovation is using a number of different cooperages (at this point 17) to give the wines the very mild vanilla aromas I experienced.
He brought in 5 vintages of the main wine -- there is a second wine from the château, called La Couronne de Marquis de Terme that we did not have -- to taste with our lunch 2012, 2010, 2009, 2008 and 2005.
The 2012 half bottle was just too young, bottled a few weeks before our lunch. I thought it showed a great nose and promise of being an excellent wine, but, similarly to an en primeur tasting, to me it is like looking at a painting from a great artist while it is still sitting half-finished on the artist’s easel. You know it could be good or even great, but until all the details and shadings are in place, you are not 100% sure.
The 2005 wine already had some bottle age, and it tasted like a left bank beauty, exhibiting the velvety elegance and perfume of an exceptional Margaux. It still feels quite young, open, with a nice garnet color. A certain other wine critic doesn’t seem to like the winery much, because its wines do not have the heavy oak and tannins he seems to prefer; but to me it is a beautiful classic wine, ready to drink now, that will pair very well with many classic French dishes, and -- in my opinion -- will hold well with even more age.
I would purchase the 2010 now and lay it down for a few more years. It needs some mellowing; 2 to 3 years more in the cellar will do it good. The 2008 and 2009 could also benefit from a year or two in bottle; but if you like your wines young, they are ready to open now and they pair well with charcuterie, especially pâtés, and confit.
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