Château Brane-Cantenac 2016
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 2016 Brane-Cantenac is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc and 1% Carmenere picked from 22 September until 17 October (the tiny parcel of Carmenere picked three days later). The yields came in at 51 hectoliters per hectare and it is matured in 75% new oak and 25% one-year-old barrels, the final alcohol level 13.3%. It has a beautifully defined, very detailed bouquet with mineral-rich black fruit laced with cedar and graphite notes, living up to its nom de plume as the "Pauillac of Margaux." The palate is simply the best that I have ever tasted at the estate, without question. This has presence, but also weightlessness, filigree tannin and perfectly pitched acidity, with real intensity and drive. The tension here is outstanding and the persistence is incredibly long. It is not the showiest of all the 2016s by a long stretch, and yet it is everything you could possibly want from a Margaux. Like Beychevelle this year, the 2016 Brane-Cantenac puts recent vintages in the shade, thanks not only to the growing season, but also a new punching down system in their gravity-fed winery that was completed in 2015. The 2016 is a benchmark against which future vintages will be compared." - Neal Martin, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate (4/28/2017, Issue 230), Rating: 96-98, Drink: 2026-2060
"I missed this wine in my recent 2016 Bordeaux report, but I was able to purchase a bottle locally. A tremendous Margaux, the 2016 offers the quintessential elegance of the appellation as well as plenty of density, concentration, and ripe tannins. Beautiful notes of blackcurrants, tobacco leaf, cedarwood, and flowery incense all emerge from the glass, and it builds nicely with air, offering medium to full body, flawless balance, and a great finish. This is classic Margaux as well as a classic 2016. It’s already approachable, and I doubt it will close down, yet it’s going to develop additional nuances with another 4-6 years of bottle age and have 25-30 years of prime drinking." Jeb Dunnuck, Up From The Cellar #7 & Misc New Releases (11/14/2019) Rating 95 Drink: 2023-2048
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