viernes, 14 de diciembre de 2012

Château Kirwan (Grand Cru Classé A.O.C Margaux)


Château Kirwan is a winery in the Margaux appellation of the Bordeaux region of France. The wine produced here was classified as one of fourteen Troisièmes Crus (Third Growths) in the historic Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. Its second wine is called Les Charmes de Kirwan.

Château Kirwan has 40 hectares (99 acres) of vineyards, planted to 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc, and 10% Petit Verdot.

Kirwan takes its name from its Irish proprietor who was, rather unfortunately, guillotined in 1792. Since 1925 Kirwan has been owned by the négociant firm, Schröder and Schÿler. The property is located in the commune of Cantenac and consists of a beautiful 18th century château and 35 hectares of vineyards.

The wine is typically a blend of 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and 10% Petit Verdot. The grapes are hand-harvested and then fermented in temperature-controlled, stainless-steel tanks. The wine is then matured in oak barriques (30-50% new) for 18 months. It is bottled after a light fining and filtration.

Michel Rolland has been consulting at Kirwan since the early 90s and the wines are now aromatically richer and have more grip and body, as well as displaying much more depth of fruit.


Château Kirwan gained its name in the 18th century, having previously been the property of Renard de la Salle, a Bordeaux nobleman, when it was known as La Terre Noble de la Salle. In 1710 the estate was sold to Sir John Collingwood, a merchant who had established his trade in the quayside warehouses of Bordeaux. With his keen interest and knowledge it was Collingwood that established the estate as a working vineyard. Subsequently, Collingwood's daughter married Mark Kirwan, an Irishman, and the property took on a new name, one which has lasted through to modern day. Kirwan established a very good reputation for his estate, and his vineyard was one of many to be visited by Thomas Jefferson, one time ambassador to France and subsequent US President. Jefferson had a passion for wine, and many Bordeaux estates played host and sold their wine to this travelling oenophile. His records from 1780 tell us that he was very impressed with the wine of Quirouen which, allowing for difficulties in pronunciation must surely refer to Kirwan.

The history of all Bordeaux châteaux of note always include at least two difficult periods; the French Revolution of the late 18th century, and the economic depression of the early 20th century (not to mention oidium and phylloxera). Kirwan is no exception. In 1789 the estate was seized, although Kirwan, perhaps by virtue of his country of birth, escaped unharmed. Under Napoleon he subsequently regained the estate, expanding it to incorporate the nearby Ganet property. In the history of Kirwan this has been the only major change in the vineyard area, and the property remains today as it was during Napoleon's time. Mark Kirwan died on the estate in 1815, forty years before his and his father-in-law's efforts were rewarded with classification as a third growth in 1855. The property subsequently came into the hands of Camille Godard, a botanist. Godard went on to become Mayor of Bordeaux, and in 1882 he bequeathed his fortune to the city. This funded the splendid Parc de Bordelais, 30 hectares of botanical paradise in central Bordeaux, designed by Eugene Bülher, and stocked with specimens of sequoia, magnolia, walnut and cypress, to name a just a few of the species provided by Godard. Sadly, Château Kirwan did not have the same attention lavished upon it, and at the turn of the century it was sold at auction, the purchasers being the négociant firm Schroder & Schyler.

KirwanTimes, however, were hard; the depression and two World Wars, following hard on the heels of phylloxera, had a significant impact on life at Château Kirwan. It was not until 1950 that Kirwan showed the first signs of a turnaround. The renaissance was led by the next generation of the Schyler family, Jean-Henri. What land that was fallow - or even planted for the production of hay - was replanted with vines. He restructured the vineyards, and in the next decade introduced château-bottling. The wines had a commercial outlet through Schroder & Schyler's businesses across Europe, and Jean-Henri sought new contacts in North America to ensure continued commercial success. In 1991 the services of Michel Rolland were engaged, and the wines are now aromatically richer and have more grip and body, as well as displaying much more depth of fruit. They were not without controversy, however, as some belittled the loss of Margaux typicité, allegedly relinquished in favour of extraction and new oak. This brought commercial success and financial rewards and thus fresh investment, and there has been no shortage of this in recent years, with a restoration of the château and a new barrel cellar being just two of the activities. And although the estate is still home to Jean-Henri, in the early 21st century it is Yann, Natalie and Sophie Schyler that have taken the reins at Château Kirwan.


The vineyards of Château Kirwan lie on the Cantenac plateau, with near neighbours Prieuré-Lichine and Desmirail. The soils here are sandy, and dominated by gravel topsoil. The vines have an average age of 27 years, and comprise 40% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 20% Cabernet Franc and, unusually, a high proportion (10%) of Petit Verdot. They are uprooted at fifty years of age, and replanted once the land has lain fallow for up to five years. Each year the vines see a green harvest. When the true harvest takes place the grapes see a sorting table before fermentation in small, temperature-controlled, stainless steel vats. The grand vin, Château Kirwan, which never accounts for more than 65% of the harvest, then sees up to 18 months in oak, one third new each vintage, before blending and bottling. This accounts for 16000 cases, whereas since 1993 there has also been 4000 cases of a second wine, Les Charmes de Kirwan.

Château Kirwan
Address: Château Kirwan, 33460 Cantenac
Telephone: +33 (0) 5 57 88 71 42
Fax: +33 (0) 5 57 88 77 62
GPS: 45.027439, -0.658203

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