Château Brane-Cantenac 2014
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.
"The 2014 Brane-Cantenac has a very classy bouquet, very well defined with blackberry, cedar and tobacco scents, that trademark graphite scent emerging with a few swirls of the glass. It is exactly what you expect from this Margaux estate. The palate is medium-bodied with fine tannin, well-judged acidity, graphite and cedar towards the linear finish that will clearly need several years to unfold. Classic Margaux really, but wise owls will cellar it away for several years." - Neal Martin, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate (3/31/2017, Interim Issue), Rating: 92, Drink: 2022-2045
"The Château Brane-Cantenac 2014 is a blend of 77% Cabernet Sauvignon, 21% Merlot and 2% Cabernet Franc, representing 38% of the total crop. It was picked between 22 September commencing with the Merlot up until 9 October finishing with the Cabernet Sauvignon. Yields came in at 44.8 hectoliters per hectare. It has a very typical nose for this Margaux estate: understated and reserved at first, touches of ground-up stone intermixed with brambly red berry fruit and damp undergrowth scents. The palate is medium-bodied with grainy tannins. There is moderate weight in the mouth, plenty of sous-bois character and a touch of graphite (à la Pauillac) leading to a tapered but sustained finish. This is your straight-down-the-line classic Brane-Cantenac, unashamedly classic in style, what you might call "good old fashioned claret." Never the beauty queen at primeur, my remarks reflect how this Margaux blossoms in bottle." - Robert Parker Jr., The Wine Advocate (4/29/2015, Issue 218), Rating: 91-93, Drink: 2020-2040
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