In the dark and rain, lightning struck the trees—but it never touched the part of the vineyard where the best vines were plantedby Barry Smith / June 20, 2018 / Leave a comment
If you could choose your last bottle of wine, what would it be? A tough question that became a reality for one member of my family many years ago. Tom, a lawyer in his early sixties, developed an inoperable brain tumour. Still quite well when given this terrible news, he knew that he faced a rapid decline. Tom loved cigars, wine and his home city of Edinburgh with its historic ties to claret. He decided to do the things he wanted to do, which included savouring an exceptional bottle of Château Margaux.
Tom invited my father to an Edinburgh restaurant and they dined together, choosing from the list a magnificent bottle of this precious Bordeaux. I never learned what vintage it was; I wish I had. The two talked openly about what was to come. My father was no stranger to medical treatment, having survived an early brush with lung cancer. Perhaps that’s why Tom sought him out for the occasion. Or, perhaps it was because my father, a restaurateur, was at home with the great wines of France. I was midway through my university training, but I found this event profoundly moving and it left its mark on me that Tom chose Château Margaux as his last wine.
I always wanted to taste a Margaux, to share in Tom’s joy in life. It was my 40th birthday in Paris when I had the opportunity. I remember lingering over the last sip of the 1986.
Corinne Mentzelopoulos, the Greek owner of Château Margaux, once wrote about a storm that hit the Margaux commune. In the dark and rain, lightning struck the trees—but it never touched the part of the vineyard where the best vines were planted. “They knew a thing or two, the ancients,” she wrote.
I think, too, of the stories of Margaux’s great vintages, of the glory of 1945 when those who toiled among the vines at harvest must have felt the surge of relief and joy at the end of the war. And I think of the story of Robert Parker, the wine critic, being asked to taste two bottles of 1900 Margaux at the Chateau to reassure a billionaire who wanted to…