I’ve been struck on this “wine themed cruise” by how little the other passengers know about wine: basically that it has alcohol in it and isn’t beer. Today’s excursion to Margaux included a few passengers who seemed to know their reds from their whites, but not much more. It’s peculiar.

Our first stop was at Chateau Giscours, a third growth that is huge compared to other area wineries, with over 600 acres, much of it not actually classified Margaux, but rather simply Haut-Medoc. The 2004 Le Haut-Medoc de Giscours was an unclassified wine from a poor year, but the 2006 Chateau Giscours was certainly serviceable. More important than the wine, though, was our luck in arriving on the last day of the harvest. Things were in full swing, and we got to watch the hand sorting operation, and crusher stemmer. There is also apparently an automatic optical sorter that rejects individual berries ohm the way to the fermenters.

Then we went to Chateau Kirwan, a send growth, that was quite generous with their wine and the various finger foods served of lunch. The 1999 Kirwan is pleasant, and the generic white “Signatures en Boardeaux” was quite nice with the food. Their second tier wine, 2006 Charmes de Kirwan was to me undrinkable, but they made up for it with the soaring (and sadly unavailable for purchase) 1978 Chateau Kirwan, which offered rich old cabernet scents of anise, sagebrush, mint, flowers and coffee. 96 points.

Following lunch we toured the winery, which had already completed the harvest and was preparing the tanks and barrels for the next step in the process. Two things I found odd: that they make the final mix before oak aging, and that the force the malolactic fermentation simultaneous to alcohol fermentation rather than letting it proceed naturally. To me, these “efficiencies” can be tasted in their modern wines.

There were a lot of sleepy passengers, unaccustomed to wine tastings, on the bus back to the ship!