Margaux, Listrac and Moulis
By Jane Anson
This Guide was last updated on 20 March 2010
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Recently purchased by an English investor, Château Cantenac Brown in the Margaux appellation famously looks like an English boarding school. © Mick Rock/Cephas
Just half an hour’s drive from Bordeaux city centre, the pretty village of Margaux provides an easy entry to the often challenging world of the Médoc. Until recently, despite its famous name, the village itself provided a pretty disappointing visit. There might have been plenty of beautiful châteaux, but unless you were a journalist or a major buyer, the reception was distinctly chilly. And even if you could find signs of life on a Wednesday, good luck on a Saturday in July, when the whole of the Margaux had decamped to the beach at Cap Ferret.
Today, things are changing, and life has loosened up here. Not only are there flags bearing the name of the châteaux lining the roads, but there are new wine shops and restaurants, and even some hotels and châteaux-with-rooms. It could still do with a few cafés and wine bars (as a tourist centre, it has yet to rival Saint Emilion), but things are no longer completely forlorn and empty at weekends.
While you are up here, don't forget the D2, the main road that runs parallel to the D1, or the Routes des Châteaux. There are a number of properties open along this other road, mainly in the neighbouring appellations of Moulis and Listrac, as well as La Winery of Philippe Raoux, the region's only Wine Centre. And this route will show you more family-run properties, in contrast to the often strikingly opulent Margaux chateaux.
The Médoc is a strip that hugs the banks of the Gironde/Garonne along one side and is edged by 'Les Landes', a large forest of pine trees on the other and this protects it from being buffeted by storms. From north to south it runs from just north of Saint Estèphe to the suburbs of Bordeaux. It has a mild maritime climate influenced by the Gulf Stream, with average annual temperatures of 7.5°C minimum and 17°C maximum and winter frosts being rare.
There is however plenty of rainfall coming in from the Atlantic with 900mm per year, mainly in the spring. The summers are usually dry and hot with good weather often extending into autumn. The vineyards are notably flat, rarely reaching altitudes of more than a few metres above sea level. The southern area, the Haut-Médoc, as its name suggests is on slightly higher ground than the Bas-Médoc.
The finest vineyards here are situated on gravelly soils often located on ridges and formed with large pebbles which are well-drained and therefore are ideal for Cabernet Sauvignon. The Merlot thrives better on the low-lying vineyards with a higher proportion of clay.
The Médoc is located between the left bank of the Gironde estuary and a forest of pines, with the Atlantic coast to the west. The fastest route from Paris, by car, is to take the A10 which takes you straight to Bordeaux. To reach the Médoc you can either take the faster more direct N215, or the more scenic D2 which passes through all the famous-named villages. By train, the TGV Atlantique service reaches Bordeaux in less than three hours from Paris, five hours from Lille and seven from Brussels. From the city centre take the Bordeaux-Pointe de Graves train. Also the local bus company Citram Aquitaine services this area. The closest major airport is found at Bordeaux-Mérignac.
Conseil Interprofessionnel du Vins de Bordeaux (CIVB),
1 Cours du XXX Juillet, 33000 Bordeaux
Tel: 05 56 00 22 66
Maison du Vin et du Tourisme de Margaux
7, Place Trémoille
Tel: 05 57 88 70 82
Maison du Vin de Moulis
Place du Grand Poujeaux
Maison des Vins de Listrac-Médoc
36 Avenue de Soulac, 33480 Listrac-Médoc
Tel: 05 57 88 84 20
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