Ch. Margaux produced 400K bottles in 1900??

Apropos of the thread about Mike Steinberger’s article about fake wines (" onclick=";return false;), the FT today has a piece about detecting fraudulent wines. (It doesn’t seem to be on the FT’s site yet for some reason.)

In it is this amazing blasé view expressed by Stephen Williams of the Antique Wine Company in London:

“The few spectacular bottles that have hit the press have attracted so much attention. I think there’s a danger of exaggeration… I see some astounding European collections in my work and there are a lot more genuine bottles left than there are fakes. Many top chateaux made up to 1m bottles a year; for example, according to records, Chateau Margaux made 400,000 [=33K cases] in 1900. I’m not saying there are no counterfeits, but we shouldn’t get carried away.”

I know many first and second growths produce 30K cases or so today, but was that true a century ago? Margaux was only producing 20K cases in the 1980s, according to the first edition of Parker’s Bordeaux book. Was the output really that much higher in 1900? And which “top chateaux” were bottling more than 80K cases a year then? Can this be right? The previously-liked website claims production in 1900 of 29,000 cases according to figures supplied by the château. If they are cases of 12, that would be about 350,000 bottles. But that is an exceptional number, not the norm. Compare with about 600 bottles of 1923 and 1945 Romanée-Conti that appears to be regularly drunk.

Margaux’s own website doesn’t have an exact number but it talks about the exceptionally large quantity (and high quality) of the 1900 vintage - and that the size wasn’t equaled again until 1982.

Adam Lee
Siduri Wines

Very interesting! Thanks, guys.

So I guess if Otto can forget six cases in his garage (" onclick=";return false;), there could be thousands of 1900 Margauxs sitting unforgotten in European cellars for Hardy Rodenstock to unearth.

I think we are running out of wine cellars of that caliber. 100 years of depressions and wars and revolutions and the celebrations when they ended probably have done in almost all of that legendary wine. Most of the auctions I read about seem to be from cellars “assembled” over the recent past, rather than familial estates going back centuries. Anyone have any contrary info? I’d love to find a hidden cache of '21 Yquem.

If there were 29,000 cases of the 1900 Margaux produced, then I am pretty sure that the sexy boys at Royal sold 35,000 cases. Plus another 5,000 cases of magnums, of course! [wink.gif]

My87 year old uncle has told stories for years of all of the chateaus saved, and their cellars emptied by the American troops passing through various parts of France( In his case Burgundy and the Alsace). Many had already been emptied by the Nazis. They captured a couple columns of Nazi troops in retreat with their trucks loaded down with wine and cognac. None of the captured contriband made it back to headquarters. [cheers.gif] A can of C rations and three bottle of Burgundy was din din.

Andre Simon, in his 1945 book “Vintagewise”, reports that the Bordelais shipped a total of 637,595 tonneaux of claret for the vintage 1900. A tonneau is approximately 200 gallons. That equates to approximately 95,639,250 bottles of the .750 size, or just short of 8,000,000 cases. It was the most plentiful vintage by a long shot when compared to the decade before and the decade after.

Given these numbers, I’m not at all surprised that Margaux may have shipped 400,000 bottles. It also means that there should be a relatively good amount of 1900 claret still available for drinking.

John – I think Gordon’s post immediately before yours argues convincingly for the opposite.

I have to disagree. While it’s true that the Nazis stole a huge amount of wine, a great deal of it was recovered when the Americans invaded Germany. Read the book Wine and War by the Kladstrups. I’ve toured a number of chateaux in Bordeaux that have significant pre-war holdings of wine in inventory. The French did a good job of hiding a lot of wine.

However, Gordon’s comment assumes that all the wine available was still in France, and that’s not the case. The majority of wine at that time was shipped out from the chateaux to England, their primary market. IMHO, most of the available old wines are not in France and haven’t been for decades. They’re in cellars in the UK.

I would definitely agree with John that most of the available pre war wine is not in France. John however claims it’s in England. Ever read the stories of England during and after the war. I would say that many of the cellars were destroyed during the war or the far vast majority of the wine was consumed years ago.

In Europe, in the early 70s, one could buy 50 year old 1st growths for less than $10/bottle. Current releases were in the $5-$7 range US. We bought these wines to take on picnics with local sausages and cheese. If lost cellars of 1900 vintage wines exist, they ae few and far between and few would be in a condition that the bottle could eveer be resold.