Chateau des Graviers

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There is truly no Bordeaux like Margaux, and to find a grower in this special appellation whose sensibilities align with our own is no easy task. We were overjoyed, then, to encounter Christophe Landry’s Château des Graviers, in the commune of Arsac. The fifth generation of his family to work the vine in Margaux, Christophe took over operations at Graviers in 1995, gradually expanding from six hectares to the 18 hectares the estate encompasses today, and converting fully to biodynamic viticulture. His rigorous approach to farming and his thoughtful, rather complex cellar regimen yield Margaux of intensely vivid, supple fruit supported by honest yet ultra-fine tannins and exquisitely etched minerality. The supreme elegance one reads about in textbooks yet so rarely encounters in more muscular versions of the appellation is on full display in Christophe’s wines.

All six red grape varieties are in play at Château des Graviers, and Christophe takes a different approach to the vinification and aging of each one: Cabernet Sauvignon, which comprises just over 60% of the estate’s surface, is vinified traditionally—fully destemmed and macerated on its skins with occasional punch-downs and pump-overs; Merlot (a quarter of the plantings) is destemmed but vinified with a portion of the ripest stems added back, which helps regulate alcohol levels; Cabernet Franc (around 5%) undergoes carbonic maceration; Malbec and Petit Verdot (roughly 4% each) are fermented at a low temperature and very gently extracted; and the 2% splash of Carmenère is vinified in open-top 600-liter barrels. Christophe’s spacious and carefully designed cellar allows him to vinify each parcel separately by variety and to move the wines solely by gravity, which helps preserve the fruit’s purity.

The aging regimen at Graviers is nearly as complex as the vinification, with Christophe employing variously sized oak barrels (only around 25% of which are new) for the majority of the elevage, as well as a handful of clay amphorae and a few strikingly shaped hexagonal concrete vessels. The proportions and the tactics vary from year to year based on vintage characteristics and the way the wines are evolving, as Christophe rejects formulaic aging and relishes the process of gradual discovery. Despite Christophe’s experimental streak, however, the wines of Château des Graviers are always poised, harmonious, and deeply evocative of Margaux’s unique gravelly terroir—devoid of hardness or rusticity but also without undue polish.

Margaux: For his flagship Margaux, Christophe vinifies each variety and each parcel separately, adopting different vinification techniques based on the cépage, and all fermentations occur spontaneously. Comprising all six red grape varieties allowed in the region, this blends just over 60% Cabernet Sauvignon with around 25% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, 4% each Malbec and Petit Verdot, and 2% Carmenère. It spends 18 months mostly in 225-liter barriques (25% of which are new), with some 600-liter tonneaux, and the occasional clay jar and concrete hexagon. The finished wine displays gorgeous harmony, with taut red fruits mingling with a mouthcoating sense of river rocks, and a just-so level of extraction that holds the wine together without contributing any hardness.

Margaux “Quintessence du Château des Graviers” : Most vintages, Christophe bottles a “Quintessence”—a selection of the very best barrels which he gives an additional six months or so of elevage. Often, this bottling contains a slightly higher proportion of Petit Verdot and a lower proportion of Merlot than the basic Margaux, and it is neither richer nor firmer than its counterpart; instead, it is simply deeper and more complex—a *quintessentially* sensuous Margaux the likes of which are difficult to come by.

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