Chateaux Margaux’s Thibault Pontallier on ageing, Cabernet and terroir

Location: Bordeaux, France

The Chateau Margaux seminar and tasting at Imbibe Live sold out in, like, a millisecond. So if you weren’t lucky enough to make it along and taste the wines on offer, here are some of the highlights from Thibault Pontallier’s talk. Sadly, we can’t replicate the flavour of the 1996 online… sorry.

‘My father [Paul Pontallier] used to describe terroir as three things: soil, climate and know-how. If you take any of these out of the equation, you lose what makes the wine special.’

‘I might be biased, but I think Chateau Margaux is the most beautiful chateau in Bordeaux. When it was built people called it the Versailles of the Médoc.’

‘Pavillon Blanc should be called Chateau Margaux white. It’s not a second wine. We only get 900 bottles per hectare! I don’t think any other place puts so much effort into their Sauvignon Blanc.’

‘For sommeliers, look for the later vintages of whites – from 2011 onwards. With sushi or tempura, it’s amazing.’

‘Chateaux Margaux was the only wine to get a perfect score of 20/20 [from the judges]during the Bordeaux classification [of 1855].’

‘If you have to remember only one thing from today, its that 50% of the pleasure in wine comes in the perfume. With Margaux we have concentration and power, but also perfume and finesse. It’s an iron fist in a velvet glove.’

‘When Cabernet Sauvignon is fully ripe, it doesn’t need Merlot so much. It is soft and suave in itself.’

‘I disagree with the idea of wines hitting their peak then tailing off. Our 1996 has reached its peak, but if you keep it properly it will stay there for ten years.’

‘People always think that you can’t have three good vintages in a row… which is good for those in the know!’

‘My father [Paul Pontallier] always used to say that the difference between a good wine and a great wine is that a good wine gives you pleasure, but a great wine gives you emotion…’


About Author

Chris Losh

After five years working on My Weekly magazine (during which time he learned how to write horoscopes and make things out of mince) in 1995 Chris Losh entered the world of drinks writing and, despite all advice from his doctor – and the wishes of most South African winemakers – has stayed there ever since. He began on Wine and Spirit International, editing it for several years before moving on to edit Wine Magazine. Both publications have since gone the way of the Dodo, but he claims to have nothing to do with their demise, and his alibi appears solid, since he was freelance writing for anyone who would pay him at the time. In 2007, he helped to set up both Imbibe magazine and the Sommelier Wine Awards, and has spent much of the last three years eating, drinking, and listening to French sommeliers talk about minerality. In 2009 he was shortlisted for the Louis Roederer Feature Writer of the Year, but didn’t win. Perhaps he should have stuck to horoscopes. And mince.

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