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Pontallier proposes Château Margaux Blanc

Château Margaux is considering introducing a white wine equivalent called Château Margaux Blanc, having reached a new quality benchmark for its white in 2014.

Margaux’s only white wine is currently called Pavillon Blanc, but the first growth property is considering upgrading the wine to Château Margaux Blanc in future vintages.

Currently, the Bordeaux first growth property produces a 100% Sauvignon Blanc from its estate called Pavillon Blanc du Château Margaux, in line with the second wine for its red, labeled Pavillon Rouge.

However, during a tasting of the 2014 releases from the estate in Margaux last week, the château’s managing director Paul Pontallier told the drinks business that he wanted to introduce a corresponding white wine for the first growth red, such is the quality today of the vin blanc.

“We are thinking about a Château Margaux Blanc,” he said, before proclaiming the 2014 vintage of Pavillon Blanc as the property’s best ever, due to “exceptional conditions for the white”.

Continuing, he said, referring to the 2014 barrel sample of Pavillon Blanc, “The first thing was to achieve this kind of quality, and then we can start thinking of the second step, Château Margaux Blanc.”

Meanwhile, Paul Pontallier’s son, Thibault, who manages Château Margaux in Asia, said that it was “confusing” that the white should be associated with the second wine of the château, because it is the first white of the property.

Furthermore, he recorded that until the introduction of Pavillon Blanc in 1920, the estate’s white wine was in fact labeled Château Margaux Blanc.

As for the timing of this possible re-brand for the white, Thibault said that he and his father “knew they had reached the highest level” with the wine, which is made entirely with Sauvignon, and that he would ideally like to promote this year’s vintage to Château Margaux Blanc, as the 2015 harvest will be the first to be handled in the property’s new cellar, which has been designed by British architect Lord Norman Foster.

Nevertheless, Thibault stressed that the château would need to gain approval from the INAO – which regulates all French agricultural products – before making the label change.

Although Margaux is renowned as a red wine appellation, receiving authorisation for such a name change should be helped by the fact that the château has historical records – and indeed bottles – showing a Château Margaux Blanc, while another Bordeaux first growth, Château Haut-Brion, already has a white equivalent: Haut-Brion Blanc.

Since 2012, all the vineyards used for making Château Margaux have been managed organically, and Paul Pontallier told db that from the start of this year, all sites used for growing grapes for Margaux’s white wine are being farmed in the same manner, which eschews the use of herbicides, or synthetic fungicides and fertilizers.

Indeed, he told db that it would be “easier” to convert Margaux’s white wine producing vineyards to organics because the disease pressure was lower.

Meanwhile, Margaux has produced an outstanding white from the 2014 vintage, which Thibault said combined the opulence of the property’s 2011 with the freshness of its 2012.

Continuing, he said of the wine, “You smell Sauvignon Blanc, you drink a Chardonnay, and then you finish with a Sancerre.”

Just 35% of crop produced from Margaux’s white wine vineyards are used to make a wine under the Pavillon Blanc label with the rest sold off “in bulk”.

Paul Pontallier said that around 11,000 bottles are made each year and joked that the wine had the yield of a Sauternes, with “a real yield of around 9hl/ha”, following strict berry selection from a vineyard producing just 26 hl/ha.

Of course, introducing a Château Margaux Blanc would allow the property to have both a first and second white wine in the future.

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