Château Branaire-Ducru 2015
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 2015 Branaire-Ducru is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 26% Merlot, 5% Petit Verdot and 4% Cabernet Franc that was picked between 18 September until 8 October, with two or three intervals in between. Matured in around 60% new oak (although as usual my barrel sample was from a new oak barrel), it has a high-toned, black cherry and cassis scented nose that perhaps feels a little constricted by the new wood in this sample, though not necessarily once in bottle. The palate is medium-bodied with a lightly spiced entry, white pepper and a touch of sage, gritty tannin, foursquare and a little conservative. There is commendable weight on the finish, if not quite the precision compared to its peers. I noticed this gaining more cohesion in the glass, which bodes well for once the Branaire-Ducru is in bottle. I expect this to rest at the top of my banded score." - Neal Martin, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate (4/27/2016, Issue 224), Ratings: 90-92, Drink: 2020-2040
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