Château Kirwan

France, Bordeaux

Margaux Troisième cru 1855

The distinctively Irish name is derived from Mark Kirwan who, in 1751, married the daughter of Sir John Collingwood, who had purchased La Terre Noble de la Salle in 1710. Their Irish ancestory allowed the Kirwans to escape the worst privations of the Revolution and to emerge in the Napoleonic era bigger and better than before. Unusually for a Bordelais estate, the vineyard area at 37 hectares is unchanged since. Château Kirwan came into the hands of the Schÿler family in 1925, and they own it to this day.

Château Kirwan is in the village of Cantenac. The vineyards, with vines an average of 30 years old, are planted at 9000 vines per hectare with 47% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 10% Cabernet Franc and an unusually high 8% Petit Verdot, planted on the classic Haut Médoc terroir of deep Pyrenean gravels up to six metres deep. Production is around 200,000 bottles, representing 40-45hl/ha. Picking is by hand, into small (6 kg) boxes for transport to the winery, where the grapes are double-sorted before fermentation in tulip-shaped concrete tanks, using selected yeasts and malolactic bacteria to ensure the alcoholic and malolactic fermentations happen simultaneously, over a period of 7 to 15 days at temperatures controlled not to exceed 25-26C. Pumping-over is used over the 18-25 day time in vat. The Grand Vin spends up to 18-21 months in barrel, of which around a third are new every year. The wines are racked every 3 or 4 months and fined with egg white.

Whilst not being among the cream of the Margaux crop, Château Kirwan is a steady producer and relatively good value. A tendency to slightly over-extracted fruit and lots of well-toasted oak has abated now that Eric Boissenot has taken over from Michel Rolland as consultant oenologist