XVIII

THE GOLDEN CENTURY

In 1705, the London Gazette advertised the first auction of the Bordeaux first growths: 230 barrels of “Margose” ! The 1771 vintage was the first “claret” to appear in a Christie’s catalogue.
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In 1705, the London Gazette advertised the first auction of great Bordeaux growths: 230 barrels of “Margose” ! The 1771 vintage was the first “claret” to appear in a Christie’s catalogue.

The English Prime Minister, Sir Robert Walpole, is an example of the predilection of the English elite for these Bordeaux first growths; he bought four casks of Margaux per quarter that he practically never paid for!

The renown of the “first growths” crossed the Atlantic and Thomas Jefferson, United States Ambassador to France, depicted the hierarchy that already reigned among the best Bordeaux wines, with Château Margau (sic!) in first place. He placed an order for Margaux 1784 on which he wrote “There couldn’t be a better Bordeaux bottle”.

The beginning of the XVIII century marked the expansion of the Great Bordeaux wines and their still informal classifications. That wouldn’t have been possible without the pre-existence, then the permanence, of the notion of a growth, that is to say, a terroir, its wine, its château. Joseph de Fumel, owner in the middle of the XVIII century, planted the “varieties of choice” on the best plots. He realised that only the gravelly areas that are found in the Médoc and in the greatest crus could produce quality wines. The French revolution put an end to this golden Bordeaux century. Elie du Barry, Count of Hargicourt and lord of Margaux, was taken to the scaffold during the Jacobin terror.

Château Margaux – its vines, its woods, its hawthorn forests, its meadows and its mills – was sold at auction by the revolutionaries as a national possession. Laure de Fumel, the last descendant of the Lestonnac, the Pontac, and the Aulède families, all related to one another and who had all looked after Château Margaux so well for three centuries, proceeded to buy back the estate from citizen “Miqueau” who had left it to dilapidate completely, even letting the orange trees freeze!

The years of the revolution got the better of her courage and her passion for her land and she put it up for auction in 1801.