Château Branaire-Ducru 2014
Château Branaire-Ducru is situated in what some refer to as the, “golden triangle,” of Saint Julien terroir. Super Second powerhouses like Château Ducru-Beaucaillou and Château Léoville Barton are a mere five minutes’ walk from this humble Fourth Growth estate. It is apparent the property has unbelievable terroir and is capable of producing some excellent wines. Yet despite all this, Château Branaire-Ducru is still relatively unknown and is considered a fantastic value among Saint Julien wines.
The history of this quiet estate dates all the way back to 1680, when it was a part of the massive Beycheville Estate. The owner of Château Beycheville passed away and left a formidable debt behind. His descendants portioned off the vineyards and sold them off in order to rectify the situation. One of these portions happened to be what is now Château Branaire-Ducru. The first influential owner of the estate was Jean-Baptiste Branaire, after whom the estate receives a portion of its namesake. The property was initially called Branyare Duluc until the 1880s and the spelling of the estate’s name changed many times throughout the course of history as the property was forging its identity. The Château was built in 1824, and it took almost 200 years until Château Branaire-Ducru received the name it has today.
Perhaps the most important owner who made sweeping changes to the property was Patrick Maroteaux, who bought Branaire-Ducru in 1988 from the Tapie family. Patrick was a gentleman who managed to find success in multiple professions. It seemed everything he touched turned to gold. At first Patrick was a successful banker, then switched courses to the sugar industry. When he decided to commit to the wine trade, he purchased Château Branaire-Ducru and invested his heart and soul into the property. Patrick Maroteaux saw the opportunity in Saint Julien, and often remarked how it seemed like a, “horse race,” of people snapping up properties in this area of undervalued terroir.
After acquiring Château Branaire-Ducru, he reduced yields and increased the size of the vineyards by 10-hectares. He hired some top-notch talent – including Philippe Dhalluin. Dhalluin started his career at Branaire-Ducru prior to moving on to Pauillac First Growth, Château Mouton Rothschild. But Patrick Maroteaux didn’t stop there -- he also was a mover and shaker in Bordeaux and served as president of the Union Grand Crus de Bordeaux.
The estate practices sustainable viticulture and the winery is a gravity-flow operation. There is some truly exceptional talent here -- such as consultants Jacques and Eric Boissenot and their new gifted winemaker, Jean Domenique Videau. Interestingly enough, Château Branaire-Ducru is very much a family run operation despite the tragic passing of Patrick Maroteaux in 2017. The wines from this property have a signature spiciness, with a lot of chocolatey and vanilla qualities that makes them easily recognizable. In terms of critical acclaim, the accolades have steadily begun to creep in throughout the years and the estate is yet to have its moment. Without a doubt, Château Branaire-Ducru is a rising star.
"The Château Branaire-Ducru is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot and 2% Cabernet Franc picked between 24 September with the early-ripening Merlot, and finishing on 11 October. The yields came in at 40 hectoliters per hectare and Patrick Maratoux explained the importance of waiting for the correct maturity of each parcel. It has a tightly wound bouquet with black cherries and orange peel aromas, focused if not quite as complex as say, Château Beychevelle. The palate is medium-bodied, sinewy in the mouth with tensile tannins. This is a wine that seems to be making a huge effort in this vintage, but I would like to see more finesse manifested on the finish by the time it is in bottle. You know, I think that will develop. That 12 to 13% vin de presse lends this Branaire Ducru impressive sustain on the finish and I suspect that it will coalesce throughout the barrel ageing in two-thirds new oak (though the sample shown at the château was 100% new oak)." - Neal Martin, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate (4/29/2015, Issue 218), Ratings: 90-92
"I was disappointed not be able to taste the 2015 from this estate, but the 2014 Branaire-Ducru showed well from a bottle purchased locally. Revealing a deep ruby/plum color and forward, sexy notes of black cherries, plums, leather, dried tobacco leaves and cedarwood, it offers impressive depth and density in the vintage, beautiful balance, and a rich, layered textured that has it already drinking nicely. It can be drunk anytime over the coming 20 years." - Jeb Dunnuck, Jebdunnuck.com, Rating: 90, Maturity: 2018-2038
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