Margaux has the distinction, among the Médoc’s six winemaking communes, of being both the largest in area and diverse in style. It alone sports estates at all five levels of the 1855 classification of Bordeaux wines.
Too, the soil is the poorest of the Médoc; the amount of gravel, the highest; the climate, the warmest; and the yield per acre, the lowest.
The 4th century Latin poet, Ausonius, while in residence across the Gironde from this area, wrote of the Gallo-Roman thermal baths here, the termes mauojaliques, also known as “Marojallia.” Hence, over time, the name “Margaux.”
While unquestionably a famous commune, Margaux underperformed relative to its native talent during much of the 20th century, until a turnaround just into the 1990s. Nowadays, some of the more exciting wines in Bordeaux come from here.
Because of the diversity of soil profiles and winemaking capability, it’s difficult to describe a “typical” Margaux. But descriptions tend to center around finesse and elegance; pronounced fragrance and aromatic complexity; and lighter weight and tannin.
Margaux wines do not splay all this charm precociously, however, and need some time to reveal themselves.
Margaux wines are difficult to buy in difficult vintages. Rainy years tend to make for washed-out wines, while the thin soils cannot hold much water in very warm vintages and grapes can take on a prune-y character.
The better recent vintages for Margaux, as a commune, are 2000, 1998, 1996 and 1995.
Margaux is the first “name” commune that you encounter on the main wine road (D2) driving north from Bordeaux city. At 3,350 acres, it is the largest of the Médoc’s six winemaking communes and, though it has more classified châteaux (21) than any of the others, these estates are spread out from each other.
Everyone wants to go see the impressive mansion that is Château Margaux itself (located just outside the town’s center) and the town’s 18th century church to the château’s side. The château is framed by an alley of gorgeous trees, surely a photo in many a wine tourists cache. The mansion is thought once to have been the home-away-from-home of Edward II, King of England.
In the city center sits the Maison du Vin (7, place Trëmoille; 05.57.88.70.82), where you may find all sorts of information about Margaux, visits to châteaux and wines to sample and buy.
Just south of the town of Margaux is the village of Cantenac and Château Prieuré-Lichine, a former monastery, but one of the better places to visit because the estate gears itself to tourists and loads on the videos, tours and glasses of wine. Nearby is the extraordinarily impressive Château d’Issan and its moat, one of the only in Bordeaux.
Because the commune is so large and the châteaux, spread out, you do well to drive around yourselves with stops at some of your favorite estates. Begin with a map from the Maison du Vin.
Perhaps because it is close to Bordeaux, Margaux has a number of above-average eateries, among them Auberge de Savoie (05.56.88.31.76), Le Pavillon de Margaux (05.57.88.77.54; also rooms) and Relais de Margaux (05.56.88.38.20; also rooms).
Infos châteaux: telephone numbers, websites or email addresses
d’Angludet: 05.57.88.71.41; www.chateau-angludet.fr
Brane-Cantenac: 05.57.88.83.33; firstname.lastname@example.org
Cantemerle: 05.57.97.02.82; www.chateau-cantemerle.com
Giscours: 05.57.97.09.09; www.chateau-giscours.fr
d’Issan: 05.57.88.35.91; www.chateau-issan.com
Kirwan: 05.57.88.71.00; www.chateau-kirwan.com
La Lagune: 05.57.88.82.77; email@example.com
Lascombes: 05.57.88.70.66; www.chateau-lascombes.fr
Malescot St.-Exupéry: 05.57.88.97.20; firstname.lastname@example.org
Margaux: 05.57.88.83.83; www.chateau-margaux.com
Marquis de Terme: 05.57.88.30.01; www.chateau-marquis-de-terme.com
Palmer: 05.57.88.72.72; www.chateau-palmer.com
Prieuré-Lichine: 05.57.88.36.28; email@example.com
Rauzan-Ségla: 05.57.88.82.10; firstname.lastname@example.org
du Tertre: 05.56.58.82.27
Helpful general websites