Wine Spectator | 95 WS
Wine Details for 1988 Margaux
|Type of Wine||
: Picture in your mind a combination of cedar, lead pencil, blackcurrant, plum and mineral aromatics, and texture that caresses your palate like a playful lover. The experience is thrilling from the first whiff to the final seconds of a tannic, generous finish - that is what you'll get from a Bordeaux Red
Red Bordeaux Blend
: The inhabitants of the Bordeaux region of France have been cultivating wine-grapes for thousands of years. Ancient Roman ruins litter the vineyards from Saint Emilion to Graves where the art of blending Bordeaux varietals has been practiced and perfected over a very long history. Bordeaux’s climate, terroir and soils, though varied, provide the optimal growing conditions for the red grape varietals planted in the region.
Rarely listed on the labels as “blend,” the red wines of Bordeaux are perhaps the most artfully designed and celebrated in the world. The calculated art of blending the native Bordeaux varietals is impressively accomplished in the most famous winegrowing region in the world. The phrase Bordeaux Blend which seems to have been coined by British wine merchants in the 19th Century relates as much to wines made from the blend as to the grape variety combination itself.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and occasionally Carmenere are the lead characters in the creation of Red Bordeaux Blends. Each plays a part in their own fashion and implemented in various combinations and percentages in each appellation within Bordeaux. Red Bordeaux Blends are majorly composed of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, roughly making up 90% of all Bordeaux Blends. Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec (occasionally Carmenere) are also important components and vital to the production of the region’s red wines.
For simplicity, the winegrowing region of Bordeaux can be divided into three main appellations producing Red Bordeaux Blends; the Left Bank (Medoc), Right Bank and Pessac-Leognan (Graves). The Left Bank has a terroir comprised of a wide variety of gravel, stones, sand, limestone and clay soils on a natural terrain of gentle slopes. This sets the stage perfectly for the production of Cabernet Sauvignon, which is the dominant grape of the Left Bank. For example, Chateau Lafite (Paulliac) is composed of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Right Bank is dominated by clay and limestone with sand and gravel, but the clay in the Right Bank is distinctly its own and adds to the health, growth and vitality of the vines of the varietals grown here. Right Bank wines are typically 80% Merlot-based, which are often denser, richer and mature earlier than those of the Left Bank (with exceptions – Petrus for example). Merlot is a vital component to Pomerol winegrowing and making. Cabernet Franc also plays a major role in the Right Bank, most notably, in Saint Emilion, where the infamous vineyards of Chateau Ausone and Chateau Cheval Blanc are planted to 55% and 52% Cabernet Franc, respectively. Chateaux that produce wines with a majority of Cabernet Franc are considered “old school” producers, but have perfected the use of Cabernet Franc, which was originally used as a blending grape.
Pessac-Leognan (Graves) enjoys a temperate climate, natural hygrometry influenced by the ocean, and has a terroir composed of gravelly soil over a clay subsoil on sloping, hilly terrain. Natural drainage due to the hilly terrain as well as the gravelly soil structure are perfectly attuned to the Cabernet Sauvignon grape vine, which prospers under these conditions. Pessac reaps the benefits of having the terroir of both the Left and Right Bank as it contains gravel and clay. The clay sub-soil allows the growth and success of Merlot, as well as Cabernet Franc. It is home to the only First Growth not in the Medoc. The 50-hectare vineyard of Haut Brion is planted to 45.4% Merlot, 43.9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9.7% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot.
The percentage of Petit Verdot and Malbec may be lesser in quantity, but not in quality. They are vital to the region’s creation of Red Bordeaux Blends. The combination of Bordeaux varietals is legendary in the region, around the world and has influenced winegrowers worldwide to plant and vinify wines which resemble those of Red Bordeaux Blends.
: Wine is the lifeblood that courses through the country of France, pulsing with vigorous pride and determination. Viticulture is not just a hobby or an occupation in France; it is a passion, a cherished tradition that has been passed down through generations of wine stained hands. Winemaking is a beloved art that has been ingrained in the culture, an aptitude instilled in sons by fathers and the hallmark for which France’s reputation was built, allowing it to be renowned as, arguably, the most important wine producing country in the world.
For centuries, France has been producing wines of superior quality and in much greater quantity than any other country in the world. It boasts some of the most impressive wine regions, coveted vineyards and prestigious wines on earth. The regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone, Sauternes and Champagne have become the benchmark, for which others aspire to become. Legendary producers such as Chateaux Margaux, Domaine De La Romanee Conti, Chapoutier, d’Yquem and Dom Perignon are idolized world-wide.
France has stamped its name on nearly every style of wine, from the nectar-like sweet Sauternes to hedonistic Chateauneuf Du Papes classic Bordeaux and Burgundy, to its sparkling dominance in Champagne. Many of the most infamous grape varietals in the world, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay originated in France and are not only beloved, but utilized in the creation of some of the greatest wines on earth. French wine production commands the attention of the wine market year after year. With over 860,000 hectares under vine, and numbers close to 50 million hectoliters of wine produced annually, France dominates the market and sets the standard for not only product quality, but also quantity.
France’s many contributions to the world of wine have been absolutely indispensable. The country is the originator of the term “Premier Cru,” coined the term Terroir (a French term so complex there is no literal translation) and has laid the blueprint for a structured appellation system, which others have implemented in their own countries. French vineyard techniques and winemaking practices are mimicked world-wide. California vintners have been replicating Rhone style wines for decades, South America has adopted the French varietal of Malbec and countries around the world are imitating Burgundian styled Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
With vast diversity in terroir, France is home to some of the most hospitable winegrowing locations on earth. The combination of topography, geology, climate, rainfall and even the amount of sunlight combined with the long historical tradition of winegrowing and making, has allowed the vintners of France to not only hone their skills, but learn from nature to create a product that like the world in which it resides… is very much alive.
: Even among the greatest and most reputable wine regions on the planet, Bordeaux stands above the rest. The winemakers of this region have a single-minded dedication to the fine art of viticulture and their efforts never fail to show. If you consider yourself a fine wine enthusiast, you owe it to yourself to visit Bordeaux - life changing. Whether you wish to drink some inspirational and gripping wine as soon as possible, or you want to add some masterpieces to your collection, no region on Earth is a more obvious choice.
The noble and beautiful Garonne and Dordogne rivers surge through southwestern France, enriching the soil in a way very few other places can boast. The limestone-based earth is rich in calcium, and the almost oceanic climate conditions give the staple Bordeaux grape varietals vigor and flavor like nowhere else. For their illustrious reds, Bordeaux winemakers rely on a proven combination of Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Merlot, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. Meanwhile, a sip of their excellent white wine hints at the use of Semillon, Muscadelle and Sauvignon Blanc.Each of these varietals carries a unique identity, making every quality wine a character piece to rival Citizen Kane. It can be incredibly hard to choose only a few wines to collect for your cellar!
: With a story that could aptly begin with, “Once upon a time,” Chateau Margaux’s history is rich and extensive, filled with allure and prestige. Arriving at a time when countries outside of France were drinking “claret,” a pale wine that didn’t age well, Margaux became the epitome for the art of wine-making and the hierarchy between the different Bordeaux growths was already being drawn up. Chateau Margaux was born into greatness at an opportune time.
Dating back to the 12th century, the property was originally known as “Le Moth de Margaux” (The Margaux Mound), but not by chance as any raised mound of land in a rather flat region is easily distinguished. Furthermore, it is notorious for its sloping land that ensures good drainage, which aides in the growth and vitally of the greatest vines. The property came under the ownership of the Lestonnac family in 1572, who formed it into the estate that we very much know today. Its 265 hectares has not been divided since, and remains as it did then. One third of the property is harvested, while the rest is left for greenery parks and forestry.
Long before gaining the status of First Growth in the 1855 Classification of Bordeaux wines, it was drawing the interest of enthusiasts the world over. In 1705, the London Gazette advertised the first auction of great Bordeaux growths and 230 barrels of “Margose” sold. The 1771 vintage was the first “claret” to appear in a Christie’s catalogue. At a time when commerce was strained due to the lack of modern transportation, it was an incredible feat to have Margaux wines resting on the tables of Americans in the late 1700’s. Thomas Jefferson, the Unites States ambassador to France in the 1780’s was a dedicated consumer as well as collector of Margaux wines. He placed an order in 1784, to which he attached a note stating, “There couldn’t be a better Bordeaux bottle.”
The beautiful manor house, or rather castle, which graces its presence on the Margaux label itself, was constructed by the owner of the property in the early 1800’s. It is recognized and celebrated today, even making its appearances in top Hollywood movies. The label is unmistakable, demanding recognition and respect for all who see it. However, the label is not truly what draws the attention of enthusiasts and collectors but rather the precious and unique liquid that exists within the bottle.
The style of wine produced by Chateau Margaux at its best, blends elegance, purity of fruit, harmony and finesse. It has a charm that is irrefutable. Planted to 75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Merlot, 3% Petit Verdot, and 2% Cabernet Franc, the final blend is 85% Cabernet Sauvignon and is largely celebrated as one of finest wines in the world. As Thomas Jefferson, and America’s third president concluded in 1787, “Chateau Margaux is one of the four vineyards of First Growth quality,” and that very much rings true today.
With the climate and terroir typical for that of the Left Bank of the Gironde, the property does however enjoy the privileged sloping terrain that allows Margaux to have such success. The land is farmed 100% organically, and has a rigorous grape selection process. This process has brought Margaux to the ideal of quality over quantity, bringing their annual production down to a mere 12,000 cases.
The avenues of commerce have improved greatly since its inception; however, much like its former days, the wines are difficult to obtain. Since the 1500’s this illustrious estate, and the only one named for its appellation, has been luring seekers of unimaginable wine the world over. The First Growth wines of Margaux are paramount, the property legendary, and its history an unbelievable and age old tale of achievement on a world class scale.
Wine Spectator | 95 WS
Mineral and blueberry skin and flowers on the nose. It’s full-bodied with minerals and silky tannins. Dusty and very pretty. Refined finish. I remember this being harder but it’s finally coming around.
James Suckling | 93 JS
The 1988 Chateau Margaux is a wine that was always overshadowed by the succeeding pair of vintages and like many 1988s, appeared rather conservative and lacked flair. However, I was gobsmacked by the performance of this wine at 28 years of age. Deep and clean in color, the bouquet is quintessentially Chateau Margaux with blackberry, potpourri, cedar and violets. It has wonderful clarity. The palate is medium-bodied, fresh as a daisy on the entry with a killer line of acidity that offsets those vibrant black and red fruits. There is energy here, vivacity, as if this Château Margaux suddenly realized its true potential after all these years. While it does not possess the length of the 1989 or 1990, there is such pleasure bound into this wine that you care little about that. Maybe I underestimated this wine for many years or perhaps it is a simple case of a "late bloomer." While the 1988 might not belong in the top echelons of releases from this First Growth, it might be considered the undiscovered gem of that prosperous decade for the chateau. Tasted May 2016.
Robert Parker Neal Martin | 93 RP-NM
The 1988 Château Margaux is a wine that I have encountered three or four times, most recently in May 2016 when it shone. Now at 30-years old it is still a lovely mature First Growth that gives so much pleasure. The nose is complex and well defined with black fruit, potpourri, incense and cedar, unfolding all the time in the glass. The palate is fresh from the start thanks to the fine line of acidity. Interestingly, this ex-château bottles felt a little more mature than the one that I purchased from a UK cellar, a little more spice and quite ferrous towards the finish. Like many 1988s, it is a wine that belongs on the dinner table than being analyzed on its own, but it is still a very fine Château Margaux now probably at the peak of its maturity. Tasted at the château.
Vinous Media | 92 VM