Château Kirwan 1996, Ex-Chateau
• Domaine: Château Kirwan
• Appellation: Margaux
• Classification: Third Growth, 3ème Grand Cru Classé
• Origin: Left Bank, Bordeaux, France
• Importer: Laguna Cellar
Château Kirwan is a charming Third Growth estate located in the Margaux region. Visitors that are fortunate enough to roam the grounds are often dazzled by stunning rose gardens and exquisite views of vineyards in Margaux and Cantenac. Château Kirwan is all about accessible, modern, and elegant hospitality -- with a tasting room that looks like a quaint living room. The message they want you to absorb here is, “Come, stay, rest awhile and taste our wines.” Lucky visitors have the opportunity to taste vintages that date as far back as 1968 -- a rare opportunity in Bordeaux normally given to industry insiders and the elite. This notion of elegance without pretense permeates throughout the estate, right down to the wines. Buyers who are frustrated with the extravagant Bordeaux prices often find more recent vintages of Château Kirwan to overdeliver, yet still remain accessible and easy to purchase.
The history of Château Kirwan dates back to 1710 when it was purchased by Englishman and experienced negociant Sir John Collingwood. He was responsible for aggressively marketing this wine to England and ensured the wine was served at the Royal Court in London. Collingwood willed the estate to his daughter who married Mark Kirwan. The estate was named Château Kirwan after his surname. Mark Kirwan increased the vineyard holdings and built the Château on the property – which still resides there in all its glory today. In the 19th Century on his whirlwind trip to Bordeaux, Thomas Jefferson visited the estate and declared it was, “one of the great Second Growths in Bordeaux,” and considered it second in quality behind Château Margaux, Château Latour, Château Haut Brion, and Château Lafite Rothschild. The négociants disagreed with this statement, and during the 1855 Classification Château Kirwan was ranked as a Third Growth or “Troisème Cru.”
The 40-hectare vineyard is currently run by the negociant Schyler and Schroder, and they have made a series of improvements to the estate. The vines here are 35 years old on average. The viticultural team at Château Kirwan recently added newer plantings of Carmenere to the standard mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc that are planted in the vineyard’s gravely terroir. The 2017 vintage was the first vintage to feature Carmenere in the blend. Like a few other Châteaux, Château Kirwan practices Co-inoculation, a process where malolactic fermentation takes place alongside alcoholic fermentation. This yields soft, silky and supple wines. In the vat room, concrete tulip shaped fermentation vessels have been added to allow for parcel-by-parcel vinification. Château Kirwan started a bit of a trend with these impressive looking tanks, and other châteaux are beginning to follow suit.
The wines are soft and best enjoyed young, with a stunning lacework of tasting notes that is a signature to the wines of the Margaux region. One can expect aromas of rose pepper, vanilla, and succulently ripe black cherries and currants. They have received mounting critical praise over the past few vintages, with fairly consistent scores in the 90 points range. These delightful, friendly wines are a fabulous example of an accessible Bordeaux. Savvy buyers should take note -- Château Kirwan offers high quality Bordeaux wines without the pretense.
"Readers should note that this property has significantly improved the quality of its wines, and now deserves a serious look in nearly every vintage. The 1996 Kirwan is a highly-extracted, rich, medium-bodied wine with a deep ruby/purple color, and ripe cassis fruit intermixed with a touch of new oak, prunes, and spice. The wine has come together nicely since I first tasted it from cask. It appears to be an excellent, nearly outstanding effort. There is moderate tannin in the finish, so give this beefy, rich, muscular wine 6-7 years of cellaring." - Robert Parker Jr., The Wine Advocate (4/22/1999, Issue 122), Ratings: 88, Drink: 2006-2025