Reviews of some of the outstanding wines of Chateaux Brane-Cantenac
By Lou Marmon
Gazette Newspapers June 12, 2013
In 1855, Napoleon III decided that the Bordeaux wineries represented at the Exposition Universelle de Paris need to be classified. Ranging from “First Cru” (growths) to “Fifth Cru,” these rankings have endured, despite significant changes in the size of many of the vineyards, with only a few modifications — among the most famous being the elevation of Mouton-Rothschild to “First Cru” in 1973.
This is no mere list because the winery’s Cru classification has a direct effect upon the prices their wines can command. The cost of a bottle of the prestigious “First Growths” (Lafite-Rothschild, Latour, Margaux, Haut-Brion, and Mouton-Rothschild) is frankly astronomical and out of reach for many wine lovers. Thankfully there are other classified wines of the Medoc whose excellent quality is associated with a more approachable price. Not to say these other Bordeaux are inexpensive. But for those who wish to experience some memorable wines, it is certainly worth collecting a few friends to buy a bottle or two to share.
Even before the 1855 classification, Chateau Brane-Cantenac was noted for its high quality wines. Originally named “Hostein” and then “Gorce” it was acquired in 1833 by the Baron Hector de Branne, who had previously sold his Mouton property to have the funds to acquire what was felt to be a more prestigious estate. The Baron died soon afterwards and the property passed into the hands of his son, Jacques-Maxime, a viticulture visionary known as the “Napoleon of the Vineyards.” He is credited with a number of vineyard innovations and as the individual who identified Cabernet Sauvignon as the Medoc’s principle grape. He subsequently renamed the property after himself and diligently worked to improve the Chateau’s wines, receiving a “Second Cru” classification in 1855.
Fast-forward to 1954. The Chateau is now owned by Francois Lurton, another talented viticulturist who was able to revitalize the property and reverse the adverse effects of war and economic doldrums. Over time, Francois and his wife purchased other estates which he passed onto his 11 children. Brane-Cantenac is one jewel among the many Lurton family holdings which now extend around the globe.
Brane-Cantenac’s current owner, Henri Lurton, who took over in 1992, shared his approach to winemaking while opening several vintages. Henri credits the property’s outstanding terroir for its consistent quality, but he is not bound by tradition. Instead he has introduced several new technologies to assure that only perfectly ripe grapes are made into wine. In addition he has focused the vineyard management to enhance mature fruit production with more attention to the soil, vines and canopy. In response to ongoing climate changes, he incorporated Carménère into the 2011 vintage, a later ripening varietal previously important in Bordeaux that had fallen into disfavor.
This makes Henri both a traditionalist and an innovator. The result is some of Margaux’s most fragrant and complex wines. Opening with a perfume of flowers, truffles, blackberry and jammy red cherry, the elegant 2010 is profoundly complex with cassis, dark fruit, earth, spice and mocha flavors flowing into a lengthy, silky smooth finish. The 2006 shows some smokiness along with more cassis among its black fruit aromas that extend into notes of sweet, soft dark plum, blackberry and currants. Another superior effort is the blackberry, anise and herbal scented 2005 which has concentrated layers of jammy black cherry, dark plum and currants accented with earth and minerals throughout the long ending. Red cherries, licorice, blueberries and currants predominate in the aromas of the deliciously mature 2000 that displays earthy blackberry, blueberry, red plum and cassis flavors along with some subtle tobacco and vanilla within an opulent frame.