Château Branaire-Ducru 2018
• Domaine: Château Branaire-Ducru
• Appellation: Saint-Julien
• Classification: Fourth Growth, 4ème Grand Cru Classé
• Origin: Left Bank, Bordeaux, France
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 2018 Branaire-Ducru is every bit as captivating as it was en primeur. Ripe, silky tannins give the 2018 a striking air of sensuality that only grows as the wine sits in the glass. Succulent red/purplish fruit, lavender, rose petal, mint, spice and gravel inflections all open more over time. Even with all of its natural radiance, Branaire remains a model of grace. It is unquestionably one of the under the radar wines of the year." - Antonio Galloni, vinous.com, Rating: 96
"The deep garnet-purple colored 2018 Branaire-Ducru begins just a tad reduced with broody tar, rubber and fried herbs scents giving way to a fragrant core of warm cassis, blackberry pie and blueberry coulis with touches of smoked meats and tobacco. Full-bodied, firm and rugged in the mouth with brawny, muscular fruit and a sturdy frame of grainy tannins, it finishes long and savory." - Lisa Perrotti-Brown, The Wine Advocate, Rating: 92-94
"A beautiful Saint-Julien, the 2018 Château Branaire-Ducru reveals a deep purple color as well as ample, earthy cassis and blackberry fruits intermixed with sous bois, earth, lead pencil, and cedar. With that classic Saint-Julien pure fruit, sumptuous aromas and flavors, sweet yet present tannins, and a solid spine of acidity, it's going to need 5-7 years to hit maturity yet should keep for 20-25 years or more. I don't think it's going to match the blockbuster 2009 (it's more in the pretty, elegant style of the 2016), but it's a gorgeous, elegant wine you will love to have in the cellar." Jeb Dunnuck, 2018 Bordeaux From Bottle (3/11/2021) Rating: 94
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