At the Sommelier India-Brindco Vertical on 3 June 2009, members of the press and hospitality trade were treated to seven vintages of Château Brane-Cantenac, Second Grand Cru Classé from Margaux. A handsome, hardbound booklet inscribed in gold lettering gave a historical background of the estate and provided tasting notes from 2000 to 2006, reports Reva K Singh.
Notes for 2007 were not included because the vintage was not a part of the original consignment. These wines came as a surprise. “We did not send them with the rest of the wines because they are barrel samples and too fragile to travel that early. I hope you can manage to insert them in the event even though they are not announced. They will be a bonus surprise!” wrote Corinne Conroy of Ch Brane-Cantenac.
We must keep in mind that these are typically and identifiably Bordeaux wines, and as such they are much admired for their consistent quality and elegance with well integrated soft tannins from ripe fruit – true to their outstanding terroir, regardless of prevailing fashion.
When Henri Lurton took over from his father in 1992, he undertook wide-ranging improvements, putting into practice all that he had learnt throughout his extensive training and international experience.
“Our wine is not so powerful, maybe, but it a very elegant wine,” he told us during the tasting. “When I arrived at the château after my studies and international experience, I tried to adapt to the place and find a style of wine that was the best for its terroir. I tried to get balance and elegance in the wine.”
Applying both modern and traditional methods, his aim is to handle grapes and wine in the most gentle and natural way possible. The wine has a distinct floral element that has long been associated with Brane-Cantenac. “A special part of the terroir gives these aromas,” he explains, “although it’s a quality which you find in a lot of Margaux.
“Most important is the ripeness of the fruit which gives softness to the tannins.
The best and worst moment for me is when the choice is made after tasting the fruit. If you have the right balance and quality of tannins the wine is good for ageing and you don’t need the structure.”
With a row of glasses tagged according to vintage before us, Lurton guided us through the vertical tasting starting with year 2007 explaining the interplay of weather, terroir and vinification in each vintage and its impact on the wine.
Talking about changing tastes in wine, he noted, “Following fashion is not the way I want to make wine. In the 18th century people drank wine that had been well aged.
“In the 1990s the fashion was for more power and structure, but I kept on making my style of wine. For me it’s neither a modern or traditional style. I just make the wine most suitable for my terroir and that I like best. And I believe the fashion is now changing more towards our style.”
Brane-Cantenac wines have always been highly prized with a loyal following. Today, in the current economic climate they are more popular than ever since they represent such good value for money. You can buy a whole case of Brane-Cantenac for the price of a single bottle of Mouton-Rothschild (an estate that once belonged to Baron de Brane). And, after my recent experience of Brane-Cantenac at the vertical tasting, I’d sooner drink the wine than the label, superb though Mouton-Rothschild may be!
This was Henri Lurton’s first visit to India and we were privileged to be introduced to these excellent quality wines from Bordeaux by the proprietor and winemaker himself – wines which, with their aromatic quality, elegance, fine concentration of fruit and gentle tannins, pair well with the aormatic complexity of Indian spices.
For more information about price and availability in India, contact Brindco.
The vineyards of Brane-Cantenac cover 90 hectares in several plots in the Margaux appellation; the first and largest plot, covering 45 hectares, is adjacent to the château on the Plateau de Brane.
The terroir is typically gravelly. The layer of stones left by the river bed of the Garonne goes as deep as 10 metres, with deeper seams of sand and clay. The deep gravely soil drains very well, stresses the vines, promotes deep, root growth and also provides trace minerals that add complexity to the taste of the wine.
The planting density is fairly typical of Bordeaux, up to 8000 vines/ha in some vineyards, while yields are low at 45 hl/ha. All year long the vineyards are tended and the vines lovingly nursed to produce good quality grapes which are harvested after analyzing, and most importantly, tasting [the grapes]. Harvesting is by hand, with the fruit coming into the Brane-Cantenac chai or cellar which was refurbished in 1997. Ageing is 18 months in barrels using up to over 50% new oak.
The terroir favours Cabernet Sauvignon which accounts for around 65% of the vineyard, with Merlot an increasingly important part at 30%, and Cabernet Franc just 5%. Production is about 30,000 cases per annum.
The Grand Vin is Brane-Cantenac, the second wine is Baron de Brane. There is also a third wine entitled Château Notton (made from the plot of the same name in honour of the man who owned this land in the 19th century) and a generic Margaux. Notton is a blend of vats that were selected for their suppleness. The wine is aged just like the Grand Vin but for only 12 months.