How would you respond if someone that you know asks you to bring a decanter? Well since it was my Brother-in-Law and he is staying at a hotel, I didn’t even ask why, or what, or how or any of the questions that we learned one semester in an English course on Journalism. Unfortunately, I don’t think “journalists” of today ask those questions either, but I digress. I quickly found a decanter, my best cork screw, an “Ah-so” just in case, a foil cutter, and because I almost made it to an Eagle Scout a funnel and a coffee filter. My Brother-in-Law doesn’t make requests like this lightly, as I remember one trip that we made down there to see them, he had asked that we bring two decanters and he and I decanted a Chateau Mouton Rothschild 1961, a Chateau Margaux 1961, a Chateau Latour 1961 and a Chateau d’Yquem 1961. Since that dinner party, he has asked me to duplicate such services and who am I to object? I was like a kid waiting for the penny candy store to open when I had a dime in the palm of my hand.
Since I had to spoil the surprise with my blurting out the wine in the title of this article, I was still impressed and in awe, as I usually don’t have a chance to encounter a thirty-year-old First Growth from the Medoc. As I looked back, Chateau Margaux is probably the one First Growth that I have enjoyed more often than any other of those heavy hitters, so I guess God does smile upon me. Since the Twelfth Century, “La Mothe de Margaux” was known, or “the Margaux Mound” as it is the highest elevation in the Medoc and easily seen, even by laymen. At the end of the Seventeenth Century Chateau Margaux occupied 265 hectares, a third of the land devoted to vines and it has stayed that way ever since. As the fame of Chateau Margaux grew both across the Channel and across the Atlantic Ocean, the winery hit a brick wall, as the “people” took over the estate and the Lord of the manor was introduced to the guillotine. In 1801 there was a new owner, and it was he that razed the old home and built the edifice that is now recognized as Chateau Margaux. In 1855 at the Second Universal Exhibition, a blind tasting created the Official Classification which has really stood the test of time with only some tweaking since the exhibition. The winery survived the blight of Phylloxera and the vines were grafted with vines from America that were resistant to Phylloxera and the winery continued to make its well-respected wines. While the winery has had different owners and the ups and downs of vintages, it is still a First Growth and maintains that image.
1989 was considered a dream year at Chateau Margaux, as it was one of the earliest harvests since 1893 and it had one of the highest sugar levels since their legendary 1982 vintage. The harvest was hot and dry with not one day of rain to create any problems. The wine is a classic blend for the winery of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. With all of the accoutrements that I took to open the wine, only the foil cutter and the corkscrew was necessary. The thirty-year-old cork held and did the job it was made for and I might add that the ullage was very promising. I had forgotten to bring a candle, so we used the beam from my iPhone so that I could watch the wine at the neck of the bottle for if and when the sledge began appearing and it was not excessive. As I decanted the wine, I had first dibs on the nose of the wine, but the whole suite was luxuriating in the wine and the fruit was still very strong. We actually left the suite and went and had dinner and returned to enjoy the wine with some cheese and crackers after dinner. Part of the discussion during dinner was about the wine that had been decanted and when we returned and poured some of the wine, the color was still strong, as I was anticipating some brownish-brick red color that I have encountered over the years with older wines, but this ’89 was still like a teenager with its feistiness. The winery claimed that they thought the wine was excellent for drinking from day one, but after thirty years, the dark cherries and fruit was still holding strong along with the spices that I always expect from any of the Great Growths. The terroir was still there, but the tannins had softened a bit. I did send out a few announcements of this wine to some dear friends that evening, but the general consensus was that we had opened this wine too soon, which made my Brother-in-Law very happy, as he told me that he still has a few more in the cellar. As an added bonus and a great way to end this article, when I went to photograph the cork and removed it from the bottle, the dregs of the bottle still exploded a month later with black cherries and I am still smiling as I write this last sentence.