Château Brane-Cantenac 2003
If there was one word to describe Château Brane-Cantenac, it would be “meticulous.” This Second Growth Château in the Margaux appellation firmly believes in slow, methodical, and continuous experimentation in the vat room. In a 2018 Decanter article, wine journalist Jane Anson describes a rigorous experiment at Château Brane-Cantenac where the estate was comparing different toasts of French and Russian Oak from the Caucasus forests with different lengths of seasoning from 24 to 36 months. The aim of the study was to discover which type of oak was better for their cooperage and whether the oak should be kept inside a drying park or have exposure to the natural elements such as rainfall. This is considered a normal experiment at Château Brane-Cantenac. One can clearly see at this estate, complacency is not an option.
Château Brane-Cantenac originates back to the early 17th Century, where it was known as Domaine Guilhem Hosten. It was one of the most expensive vineyards in Bordeaux and was highly respected long before it was ranked as a Second Growth during the 1855 Classification. The estate received its namesake when it was purchased by Baron de Brane, a highly respected viticulturalist who was nicknamed, “Napoleon of the Vines.” The Baron was the owner of the estate Brane-Mouton, another producer that would later become known as the famous First Growth Estate, Château Mouton Rothschild. The Baron sold his holdings of Brane-Mouton to acquire Château Brane-Cantenac. The estate changed hands in the 1920s to a négociant Château Grand Crus de France that also owned Château Margaux. Eventually Château Brane-Cantenac was acquired by one of the most famous winemaking families in Bordeaux, the Lurton family.
After several generations, the estate is currently helmed by the ambitious and personable Henri Lurton. Lurton is not afraid of thinking outside of the box and owns another winery in Baja California called Bodegas Henri Lurton. With master’s degrees in Biology, Oenology, and Ampelography, he brings his scientific knowledge and love of experimentation to the vineyards at Château Brane-Cantenac. The viticultural team oversees the 75-hectare left bank vineyard with its numerous plantings of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, and Carmenere. Under his leadership, 20% of the vineyard is organically farmed and 4 hectares are biodynamically farmed. Château Brane-Cantenac has its own weather station linked up to the European Demeter Network and for more than ten years has used a website run by Meteo France to show daily weather reports, rain radar, satellite pictures, and long-range forecasts.
Though not the most outwardly showy wines in Margaux, the wines of Brane-Cantenac are adored because of their highly complex and layered nuances that unfold with time. They are gorgeously textured, and the fruits shine through with confidence as they age. They are softer and more accessible than some of the bolder wines of Pauillac and other Margaux Second Growths. Because of their accessibility and strength, these wines are tremendously versatile. They can be consumed on the younger side or laid down and enjoyed years later.
"Tasted at the Brane-Cantenac vertical at the château, the 2003 Brane-Cantenac, a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc, has a rather monotone bouquet of smudged red berry fruit mixed with aniseed and dried herbs. The palate is medium-bodied, soft in the mouth with a one-dimensional finish that does not exactly compel another sip." - Neal Martin, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate (12/30/2016, Issue 228), Drink: 2015-2020
"This is another Margaux estate that has become re-energized and is now producing wines consistent with its 150-year-old classification. The dark plum/ruby-colored 2003's stunning aromatics include flamboyant notes of plums, cedar, burning embers, and dried herbs. Full-bodied, elegant, layered, and rich, yet filled with finesse and delicacy, it is surprisingly soft, round, and gentle. While appealing at present, it will evolve for 15-18 years." - Robert Parker Jr., The Wine Advocate (4/23/2006, Issue 164), Rating: 91, Drink: 2006-2024
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