Château Branaire-Ducru 2016
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.
# 16 of Wine Spectator's Top 100 Wines of 2019
"The 2016 Branaire-Ducru is a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot and 3% Cabernet Franc picked from 28 September until 19 October at 50 hectoliters per hectare, one of the longest harvest periods at the estate. The nose is quite intense with black fruit infused with pencil shaving and a touch of tobacco, unashamedly classic in style, a little distant compared to some other Saint Juliens but undeniably well defined and full of character. The palate is structured and masculine, exerting a firm grip in the mouth, spicier than its peers with cracked black pepper complementing the black fruit, tobacco and smoke towards the structured finish. There is great length here, very persistent in the mouth, a little "rougher" in texture than others, but that will be smoothed out during élevage and in bottle. Give this Branaire-Ducru five or six years in bottle because it has great potential, one of the best produced at the estate in recent years. " - Neal Martin, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate (4/28/2017, Issue 230), Rating: 92-94,Drink from: 2023-2050
"Branaire-Ducru is gorgeous in 2016. A rush of inky blue/purplish fruit, licorice, violet, lavender and dark spices give the wine its rich, textured feel. Gracious and nuanced, in the classic Branaire style, the 2016 possesses lovely depth and sensuality, with no hard edges and terrific overall balance. Time in the glass brings out the wine's more floral and spiced notes. Above all else, Branaire is a wine of finesse despite its considerable intensity. It is also arguably the most polished of the Saint-Juliens. Tasted two times." Antonio Galloni, Vinous.com (4/1/2017), Rating: 92-95
"Juicy, savoury nose. Fresh and fine-boned. Could only be Bordeaux – tant mieux! Silky texture with some energy." - Jancis Robinson (4/05/2017), Rating: 17/20, Drink from: 2026-2043
"The 2016 Château Branaire-Ducru checks in as a blend of 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot, and the rest Cabernet Franc. This medium to full-bodied, downright pretty Saint-Julien has a complex, layered style in its mulberries, blackberries, saddle leather, and forest floor aromatics, with hints of graphite developing with time in the glass. Possessing terrific tannins, nicely integrated acidity, and a great finish, I’d certainly be happy to have bottles of this in the cellar. Give it a few years and it promises to shine for 20-25 years." Jeb Dunnuck, Bordeaux 2016: Firing On All Cyllinders (2/28/2019) Rating: 92+ Drink: 2021 - 2046