Tasty SOMMary - 1996 Chateau Kirwan, Margaux, Bordeaux, France

I’m slightly biased towards Margaux, for many reasons. For one, it’s the best-performing region for my birth year (1983). Secondly, Margaux wines are often regarded as feminine, the Queen and Cleopatra of the Bordeaux world, and I, as a female, find myself naturally drawn to them.

Margaux is also the biggest commune on the left bank with most chateaux falling under the 1855 classification system.  Unfortunately, over the years they have also become known as one of the most “inconsistent” and “overrated” communes on the left bank with some chateaux unable to produce wines worthy of their ranking. Well, that’s where I come in. It’s my job and my passion to select wines which over deliver for their price point in a massive sea of options.  With that said, let’s talk about Kirwan.

Chateau Kirwan, rated as a 3rd Growth in the 1855 classification, was unfortunately known as one of those underperformers for the longest time. It wasn’t until 1992, when they hired the world-renowned Michel Rolland to come and consult, that they started turning things around. From the 1996 vintage forward, their wines began to show opulent concentration and started to gain notice from serious wine collectors.

I had the pleasure to enjoy this bottle as part of a Margaux wine dinner I hosted at Orchard City Kitchen last September, with food pairings from Michelin Star Chef Jefferey Stout. This 20-year-old wine was in perfect condition; I had it directly imported from the winery and it has never been stored anywhere outside of the original cellar. After 1.5 hours of gentle decanting the wine opened up beautifully. A slight orange rim gives away the age of the wine, with solid, medium concentration at the core. On the nose, it was medium to medium plus in intensity, not tired at all for an old wine. The fruit aromas are warm and rounded with a good combination of red and black fruit followed by mushroom, overturned earth, and clay soil mixed with a violet flower bouquet (a scent that is very distinctive and unique to wines of Margaux).  Hints of tobacco leaves layered in at the end. It was incredibly smooth, well rounded and a balanced wine that’s drinking at its peak.

The Kirwan paired well with Chef Stout’s “Steak Tartare. Smoked Aged Cheddar. Grilled Bread.” It was a harmonious combination. The aged cheddar brought out the earthy notes in the wine and the meat complimented nicely with the tannins still present in the wine. Neither the wine or food was overpowering the other, instead they were both elevated when enjoyed together.  I actually served this wine “blind” for the dinner guests that night and they were all shocked to learn the price of this bottle, in a good way though!  Many people guessed it was Chateau Palmer, and even Chateau Margaux itself before I revealed the answer to them!

I’m very happy I came across this rare gem and am able to share it others who love a classic, perfectly aged, ready to enjoy Bordeaux wine at a great price! I will direct import a few cases from Bordeaux arriving in April 2017. 


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