‘But my dear Sir, you must understand that to allow Château Margaux to be bought by Americans is as if we were to agree to sell them the Eiffel Tower or the Gioconda.’
I protested that there was little in common between the Eiffel Tower and a field of Merlot, and that the Mona Lisa was an imported work of art which anybody could hang anywhere. He paid no attention.
‘And again, you must realise dear Sir, that we cannot go against the wishes of the President of the Republic who has given a clear ruling on this matter. Margaux will remain French. Do you realise that the Americans have actually refused permission for Concorde to land on their soil?’
This is how the National Distillers Company was prevented from buying Château Margaux, just when my father and I thought to have found a suitable taker, whose humanitarian, technical, commercial and financial structure was of international proportions, a taker who would be what the Rothschilds are to Lafite and Mouton.’
– Margaux, Bernard Ginestet (published 1989)
For several decades during the middle of the 20th century the Ginestet family were the sole proprietors of Château Margaux, and during the 1950s and 1960s they claimed to have been the only family proprietors of a premier grand cru classé property who actually resided in their châteaux.
While their inhabitation of Château Margaux (pictured below) is deserving of admiration (although, if you owned it, could you actually resist moving in?), history does not judge other aspects of their tenure of this first growth property so kindly. There were difficulties, there were questions over quality, and there was personal tragedy. Prompted by some or perhaps all of these tribulations, during the early 1970s the family decided to sell, and by 1974 they seemed to have found someone willing to take on this great château. The problem was, while they thought the prospective buyer to be ideal, their president was decidedly less keen.
There is something quintessentially Médocian about Château Margaux. It is without doubt the grandest château on the entire Médoc peninsula; it may surprise you to learn that there are two or three which are larger, or taller, or broader, but I contest there are none which combine these proportions with such delineated elegance. It is a building which would simply look out of place anywhere else in Bordeaux. One simply can’t imagine it towering above the vineyards in Pomerol, or sitting in what would be a very isolated grandeur among the vines of Graves and Pessac-Léognan.