Château Margaux: a childhood dream

Alexis Leven-Mentzelopoulos is making his mark at the head of the legendary Château Margaux. With his sister Alexandra, this young manager is continuing in the footsteps of his mother and grandfather, as well as predecessors dating back to the 16th century. Alexis Leven-Mentzelopoulos talked to Anthony Moses about the 2004 vintage of Château Margaux, the passion that drives him, and the projects he is putting in place for Margaux’s Premier Grand Cru Classé.

Knee-high to a grasshopper, out among the vines

When they think back, the Château Margaux staff remember a young boy running everywhere, delighted to be soaking up the magic of the place. Alexis Leven-Mentzelopoulos, who has just turned thirty, fondly remembers these defining moments.

‘You soon realise that there is something special about Château Margaux. You don’t understand all the details, but you discover that you want to be part of it and that it would be hard to find another job you would be as passionate about.’

Alexis Leven-Mentzelopoulos, Co-owner and manager of Château Margaux

And so, at the beginning of 2020, the young communication and wine management graduate joined the family estate. Alexis Leven-Mentzelopoulos gradually familiarised himself with all the production, commercial and financial sides of the job. ‘There are many professions at work at Château Margaux, all of which are interesting and above all extremely useful’. This was a way of honing his skills before taking the reins of this Margaux Premier Grand Cru Classé. This was enough to spark the curiosity of Anthony Moses, owner and general director of Twins: ‘When you are young, do you want to consolidate what has already been done or add your own personal touch?’. Alexis Leven-Mentzelopoulos’s answer is clear: ‘Adding a personal touch is a definite no’.

Ongoing innovation

The young man’s aim is first and foremost to respect Château Margaux. He emphasises the estate’s more than 500 years of history and the need for the Premier Grand Cru Classé to be paramount. However, Alexis Leven-Mentzelopoulos is not falling victim to inertia: ‘You must respect Château Margaux without resting on your laurels’.
Various experiments are also being performed on this Médoc estate. A wide range of tests have been conducted in the vineyards and winery on different types of winemaking, maturation, and even corks.

‘For the record, we have nearly 10,000 test bottles in the Château Margaux cellars. We will taste them with the R&D and technical teams in 10, 15, 20 years to see if any of the tests we’ve done are useful.’

The aim is to try and perfect what remains to be done, do it gradually, and not change anything until the teams are completely convinced that it is the right thing to do. Alexis Leven-Mentzelopoulos emphasises: ‘You don’t do anything because it’s trendy, you do it because you believe that it will further enhance the quality of Château Margaux’.

Château Margaux: exceptional levels of selection

One of the areas where Château Margaux has set the bar very high is in grape selection. ‘It feels like every year, you improve the quality of Margaux a little more’, Anthony Moses notes. This impression is confirmed by the young manager.

‘In the 1980s, 300,000 to 350,000 bottles of fine wine were made each year. Today it’s only 100,000 to 120,000. We are making less wine because we are performing more rigorous selection.’

Alexis Leven-Mentzelopoulos, Co-owner and manager of Château Margaux

In recent vintages, only a third of the total harvest is used to make Château Margaux, ‘the cream of the crop’. By way of comparison, for the legendary 1982 vintage, 75% of total production went into Château Margaux. Anything not used in the blend for the top wine is marketed under the Pavillon Rouge label, the estate’s second wine created in the 17th century. Anthony Moses also hails this second wine as offering ‘precision, elegance and finesse reminiscent of the top wine in the 1980s. I would say that consumers are the big winners here’.

Recommended food and wine pairing with Château Margaux 2004, by chef Arthur Leprevost: Rack of Pyrenees milk-fed suckling lamb, peas, carrots, mint oil, marigold petals, coffee powder.

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