The wines of Château Kirwan, Margaux
Visiting this Margau Third Growth, Bordeaux, France


Nathalie Schyler in front of the Château

I have just spent a couple of days at Château Kirwan, a third-growth Margaux estate owned by Bordeaux negociants Schröder & Schÿler ( 

While I was here, I was shown around by Nathalie Schÿler who runs the property, and whose father Jean-Henri lives in the Château. Nathalie’s brother Yann runs the negociant business, and Yann’s wife Marie-Louise is director of communications for AXA’s wine division, which includes Château Pichon Longeuville in Pauillac. 

In the 19th Century Kirwan was owned by Camille Godard, a rich philanthropist, keen botanist and mayor of Bordeaux. He died childless in 1881 and left Kirwan to the city of Bordeaux, who weren’t really sure what to do with it. So in 1902 Oscar Schÿler, head of Schröder and Schÿler, negociated a contract with the city for exclusive distribution rights. But five years later the city sold the Château to Georges Guestier for use as a summer house. However, in 1925 Schÿler purchased Kirwan and it has been in the family hands ever since.

In the late 1950s Jean-Henri invested lots of money in the property, but this left him and the negociant business short of cash. They were forced to sell 65% of shares to a merchant bank. Since then, the family have bought back many of the shares, leaving just 20% in other hands.   

I spent some time wandering through the vineyards. They vary, with quite a bit of sand and gravel evident, and the better plots tend to be more gravelly and less vigorous. This is one of the highest points in the Margaux appellation.

The best plot at Kirwan is a 4 hectare Cabernet Sauvignon vineyard on a very gravelly spot that was planted by Jean-Henri in the 1960s. He experimented with a 1.5 metre row spacing, as opposed to the typical 1 metre spacing seen across most of the region. This plot works brilliantly, but subsequent plantings on the property have reverted to the 1 metre spacing.

Around half the vineyard area is used to make the Grand Vin each year, although that proportion rises in great vintages. Altogether there are 37 hectares of vines, with an average age of 30 years.  

In the barrel cellar, the 2012 is sleeping. Nathalie admits that this was a hard sell, although the quality is good. The cellar is decorated with modern art, something that she is very much into. In the picture there’s an installation based on vine trunks that have been painted red, and which look a bit like wiry people. 

Consultant winemaker is the widely respected Eric Boissenot. Previously, Kirwan was advised by Michel Rolland, from 1991 to 2005. The blend is typically 45% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 15% Cabernet Franc and 10% Petit Verdot (an unusually high proportion). One-third new oak is employed each year. 


Charmes de Kirwan 2009 Margaux, Bordeaux, France
Ripe, supple black fruits. Quite smooth but with some grainy tannins in the background adding structure, and notes of cherry and plum. Nice weight here: very drinkable and classic. Ripe but balanced. 91/100

Château Kirwan 2010 Margaux, Bordeaux, France
Wonderfully ripe and quite concentrated, with fine blackcurrant and black cherry fruit. Lovely texture and weight here, with real purity. Very ripe but full with nice balance. An expressive wine, showing some spicy warmth and made in a seductive style, but it will age. 94/100

See also:

The wines of Pontet Canet, Bordeaux, with Alfred Tesseron 
The wines of Chateau Montrose, Saint Estephe
Chateau Batailley Vertical Tasting
Haut Bailly Vertical Tasting

Wines tasted 09/13  
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