Before looking at the wine itself, let’s set the scene by briefly discussing the wine region it comes from, the estate and its owner.
AOC Médoc wines are not that frequently seen on our shelves – in fact just before opening this for a French friend she mentioned that she rarely sees them in France. Médoc wines are definitely the junior wines of the Médoc peninsula, though at least they though no longer carrying the Bas Médoc moniker. Further south, the Haut Médoc contains most of the famous Bordeaux AOCs: Margaux, Saint Julien, Pauillac and Saint Estèphe; the gravel banks close to the Gironde Estuary are perfect for Cabernet Sauvignon-dominant blends. The lower sites of the Médoc AOC tend to perform better with a larger proportion of Merlot.
A few Châteaux have flown the flag for quality in the Médoc, Château Potensac being the most obvious example: the only “Cru Bourgeois Exceptionnel” of its appellation.
Bernard Magrez started in the wine trade at a young age and was very much the entrepreneur. He was instrumental in establishing some major wine brands including Malesan and Sidi Brahim. He later began investing in prestigious Bordeaux properties, including his four grands crus classés which he still owns today
- Château Pape Clément, Pessac-Léognan, Grand Cru Classé de Graves
- Château La Tour Carnet, Haut-Médoc Grand Cru Classé en 1855
- Clos Haut-Peyraguey, Premier Grand Cru Classé de Sauternes
- Château Fombrauge, Grand Cru Classé de Saint-Émilion
He later expanded outside of Bordeaux, from the south west of France all the way round the world:
- Rest of France (Languedoc, Roussillon, Rhone, Bergerac, Cahors, Provence, Gascony)
- Rest of Europe (Italy, Spain)
- Americas (USA, Brazil, Chile, Uruguay, Argentina)
- Africa (Morocco)
- Asia (Japan)
And of course, he is the proprietor of Château des Grands Chènes.
Château des Grands Chènes
The Château saw its first harvest in 1880, as proudly mentioned on the front label. Its location in Saint-Christoly-Médoc is one of the best in the Médoc, being somewhat elevated, right on the Gironde estuary and with soils consisting of gravel, clay and limestone. The Château building itself was originally a fort1 with a strategic position overlooking the water. The estate changed hands several times since its inception, with several owners investing in renovations in the vineyard and the cellars. The most notable of these was, of course, Bernard Magrez who bought it in 1998.
The Château’s vines are planted in the proportion 60% Merlot (mainly on clay) and 40% Cabernet Sauvignon (on gravel and limestone). There used to be Cabernet Franc planted but it was replaced. There is just a single wine made these days; previously there was also a Grande Cuvée made from the best grapes1, but now they all go into the main wine. The name Grands Chènes means great oaks, so it’s fitting that the wine spends time maturing in oak barrels.
Château des Grands Chènes Médoc 2019
Whilst doing a quick sweep through the wine aisles of the supermarket close to my parents’ in France, I spotted this magnum on promotion. The crossed keys (from Château Pape Clément) and Bernard Magrez signature caught my eyes, so I decided to give it a try. A barbecue with friends the next evening was the perfect occaision to pop it open.
Even the colours on this wine show its youth; a black, almost opaque core is surrounded by a purple glove. The nose is aromatic, with ripe black fruits: plums, blackberry and blackcurrant. There’s sweet vanilla and a touch of spice, too. In the mouth it is powerful and smooth, but generously fruity. There’s a very attractive velvet mouthfeel, with a graphite tang and some good structure supporting all the fruit.
So, so young at the moment, this 2019 could easily last into the 2040s in magnum format, but it’s already approachable and downright delicious!
- ABV: 14.0%
- RRP: €26.95 (magnum, in France)
- Source: purchased from Intermarché
1Source: The Wine Cellar Insider