Curious to consider that in the two thousand year history of the wine world, Classified Growth Bordeaux still retains its magic, value, and allure.
In light of En Primeur, I’ll be spotlighting some favorite chateaux and their history.
Created in 1735, Margaux-based Chateau Brane-Cantenac caught the roving eye of the Donald Trump of the Bordeaux wine world: the worldly, aristocratic Baron Hector de Brane in 1833. By all accounts Brane was quite the socialite, and despite his vibrant personality and title, had a deep scientific educational background and was largely responsible to identify Cabernet Sauvignon as the Medoc’s ‘premier grape.” By the time of the 1855 classification, Brane-Cantenac achieved the lofty 2nd Growth classification.
Modern History with current owner / winemaker Henri Lurton
Today the Chateau is under the direction of the charming Henri Lurton, whose powerful family bought this estate in 1925. Unlike many chateau owners who live in Paris and hire a vineyard manager to work the property, Henri Lurton lives near his vines and can be seen in the vineyard almost daily, examining the vines or overseeing trellising work. Near harvest, he tastes the grapes for ripeness in addition to sending the results for laboratory analysis. Recently, he invested in an optical sorter in addition to hand picking, which insures that only the ripest grapes make the first wine.
Why this dedication? Here’s the story …
In 1992, Henri’s father Lucien Lurton decided to retire. He asked each child which chateau out of the 11 he had purchased he or she would like to have and then made his decision,. The decision was not necessarily based on what they had asked, but certainly all equal value (based on the ‘92 value of the land and estate).
Henri got Brane with one sister, Edwige, and one brother, Thierry, who remained silent partners for a while, until Henri bought them out partially. His sister still has some shares in Brane. With time, all the other brothers and sisters re-arranged things between themselves, either selling their properties to each other and getting out of the wine business altogether (like Brigitte who was part owner of Climens with Bérénice) or Louis, who sold one of his château….
1925 – A Daily Reminder
Visiting Brane-Cantenac, one can see the numbers 1925 carved into the cellar. This represents the year of the chateau’s acquisition, which must remind Mr. Lurton daily about his grandfather and his grandfather’s dedication to the brand. Either way, the highly credentialed Henri Lurton has oenology degrees from many institutions, including the University of Bordeaux, and as a young man had worked in S. Africa, Australia, and Chile to perfect his skills and learn the newest technology.
Brane-Cantenac is one of the first Classified Growth estates to make this expensive investment of the optical sorter, signifying its continued desire to move toward the modern age and create the finest wines on the market.
Understanding Brane-Cantenac Key Vintages
Vintage variation is so crucial in Bordeaux there can be a several hundred dollar difference from one vintage to the next. The 1952 vintage sells for nearly $900 on the international online market, a very rare occurrence due to an excellent vintage. On the nose, the wine is fresh and lively, with concentrated black fruit on the palate and the kind of acidity and balance with firm tannins that is responsible for its incredible longevity.
Many people assume that the older the wine, the better. While this is usually true for Classified Growth Bordeaux, Burgundy, and Barolo, at some point (typically 15 – 20 years) the wines plateau and then slowly fall apart. The freshness of Brane-Cantenac’s 1952 is a testament to the vintage and the skill of Lurtons as winemakers.
Pairing the 1952 with Food
French tradition dictates that the most expensive and rare wines are served at the end of the meal, usually with cheese. And in the case of the 1952, this is an appropriate choice as the wine still has incredible acidity and concentrated depth of fruit, yet the tannin is softer, and not as appropriate for steak as it would have been in its prime.
Brane-Cantenac is available at most five star restaurants (call ahead) and can also be purchased at auction houses and through http://www.wine-searcher.com internationally.
To read more of my articles about Chateau Brane-Cantenac, click here
Address: Chateau Brane-Cantenac, 33460 Margaux
Telephone: +33 (0) 5 57 88 83 33
Fax: +33 (0) 5 57 88 72 51