A New Generation Masters the Magic of Margaux

The benchmark 2010 vintage headlines a lineup from the Bordeaux first-growth going back to 1996, all made by legendary winemaker Paul Pontallier

A New Generation Masters the Magic of Margaux
Château Margaux’s new deputy managing director, Alexis Leven-Mentzelopoulos, joined his family’s Bordeaux estate two years ago. (Rick Wenner)
Oct 27, 2021

The Friday seminars at the New York Wine Experience concluded with one of the most-anticipated tastings of the weekend: A four-vintage vertical tasting of Château Margaux’s grand vin, plus the Bordeaux first-growth’s rare white. Margaux owner and Wine Experience regular Corinne Mentzelopoulos, whose recent appearances on stage at the Wine Experience include pouring a six-vintage vertical in 2017 and as part of a panel serving all five first-growths in 2011, joined the seminar live from Bordeaux via video conference; her son, Alexis Leven-Mentzelopoulos, was joined on stage by Wine Spectator senior editor James Molesworth.

“It’s good to be back! I’ve been coming for more than 30 years to the Wine Experience, and I have plenty of fond memories,” Corinne said. “I’m upset to be away, but very proud to introduce my son Alexi, who’s been working with me for two years. Thank you, Alexi!”

While sharing family slides of the Margaux property and staff, the château’s new deputy managing director was asked when he knew he wanted to join the family business. “To be honest, I have always wanted to join the Château Margaux team,” said Leven-Mentzelopoulos, whose parents purchased the estate in 1976. “It’s not that one day I woke up and suddenly had this passion; I grew up with this intention, and I understood the great privilege that was offered to me … and mostly I understood that I would have a very difficult time finding another job that would be as interesting as working at Château Margaux! It is a dream come true.”

 Bottle of Château Margaux grand vin being poured for Wine Experience guests
Wine Experience guests enjoyed four classic-scoring vintages of Château Margaux’s red grand vin, including 2010, 2005, 2003 and 1996. (Daphne Youree)

The tasting started with a 98-pointer: Château Margaux Margaux 2010 ($1,200 on release). “We always talk of the magic of Margaux; of the five first-growths, it is generally considered the most aromatic, the most elegant,” said Molesworth. “And you can see the magic right from the glass on the 2010—the benchmark vintage for Bordeaux right now. [This wine] has the structure and spine that I love.”

“This combination of power and softness is typical of Margaux,” said Leven-Mentzelopoulos. “You can easily find pleasurable wines, but to drink a wine that brings you more than simple pleasure—that brings you emotion—I have only been able to find this in the great old first-growths, and especially at Margaux.”

The 2005 Margaux (97 in a retrospective tasting, $1,080 on release) is “another great vintage, of course, characterized by extreme drought,” said Leven-Mentzelopoulos. “You might wonder, how is it possible to have wine that is so elegant, with so much finesse and freshness when it comes from such a warm, dry year—this is the magic of the terroir.”

The 2003 Margaux (95 retrospective, $425 on release) followed, from a notoriously hot vintage and one of the earliest ever harvested at Margaux. “When you taste the ’03, everything is there: concentration, but also this freshness, elegance, incorporated tannins,” said Leven-Mentzelopoulos. “Tell me, what is missing?” Nothing, Molesworth agreed.

 Senior editor James Molesworth and Château Margaux deputy managing director Alexis Leven-Mentzelopoulos on stage together at the Wine Experience
Joined by senior editor James Molesworth, Alexis Leven-Mentzelopoulos took the Wine Experience stage for the first time to represent Château Margaux instead of his mother, Corinne Mentzelopoulos, who appeared on video. (Daphne Youree)

The last red of the tasting, the 1996 (95, $282 on release), “is worthy of the greatest vintages of Margaux,” said Leven-Mentzelopoulos. “It really represents the style of Margaux. We like to describe the wines as an iron fist in a velvet glove.”

“There are some constants here,” added Molesworth. “All the wines were made by Paul Pontallier, it’s the same vineyard, and [the wines are] clearly Margaux all the way. That’s a testament to great terroir.”

Concluding the tasting was Margaux’s 2015 Pavillon Blanc (94, $145), a rare 100 percent Sauvignon Blanc white that almost no one in attendance had previously tasted. “This wine has gone through a renaissance. Its freshness, its purity, its clarity is on a different level,” said Molesworth. “[Corinne] reminded me that I [wrote that] this was the purest expression of Sauvignon Blanc that you can find … basically, it’s really damn good.”

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