A few weeks ago Chris Riccobono, from the video blog Pardon That Vine
, invited me to taste a select vertical of vintages of the renowned Bordeaux Chateau Brane-Cantenac
. Brane-Cantenac is located in the Margaux commune in the Medoc region of Bordeaux. In wine circles, the wines from Margaux are known to be more feminine in style when compared to other communes in the Medoc such as Pauillac and St. Estephe that are typically more tannic and can sometimes express more power than grace. Typical of Margaux are seductive perfumes and silky textures on the palate that help reinforce its reputation as an elegant, yet compelling style of wine. Cabernet Sauvignon typically dominates the melange (blend) of grapes in Margaux but it also tends to have the highest proportion of Merlot in its blends when compared to other Medoc communes.
The vintages we tasted were all young: 2003, 2004, 2005, 2008, 2009, and 2010. The much heralded 2009 and the yet to be released 2010 are barrel samples that were flown in direct to New York City from Bordeaux by Corinne Saussier Conroy. Corrine is the Director of Marketing and Communications at ‘Brane’ and led us through an informative introduction to Chateau Brane-Cantenac. I really enjoy talking to people who work in the wine biz, we chatted before and after the formal parts of the tasting and I enjoyed our conversations about vintages, futures prices, travel and everything else wine.
We talked through each vintage, discussing what we liked and how some aromas and flavors were different because of the vintage conditions. It was also nice to see the terroir as a common thread to each vintage, giving Brane a wonderful typicity. The barrel samples were a real treat as it is quite rare to taste a Bordeaux barrel sample outside of Bordeaux, let alone in New York City.
Here we go into the tasting notes:
The most mature in color, slightly brick at the edges and the least vibrant in color. Aromas of mint/eucalyptus, licorice, blackberry, spice, a little dill and herb add a little extra nuance. The aromas flow into the flavors and hit the palate gracefully for such a ripe vintage. I was expecting more weight but it was not there, in a good way.
The 2004 had more typical aromas of currant, plum, minerality, and spice mixed in with cooler vintage aromas and flavors of herbs matched with higher acidity. Supple and well balanced, this wine was elegant and a good representation of a cooler vintage Brane.
The best wine of the night for me, the ’05 was pretty tight but revealed hints of what is to come as this wine moves into maturity. Full on all levels, the fruit, tannins and acidity wove a deep palate expression of roasted coffee bean, black cherry, cassis, minerality, and spice. It changed and evolved in the glass through the tasting, showing the varied array of aromas and flavors. Great length on the finish. Superbly balanced and complex, a real winner!
A superb bargain, the 2008 offers up wonderful aromatics of a fruit perfume mixed with spice and a little toast. Loads of minerality and tobacco fight for the palate’s attention along with licorice whips and cherry. Silky and fine tannins pair well with bright acidity.
2009 BARREL SAMPLE
A blockbuster or a wine, the ’09 shows huge fruit on the nose and the mouth, with some noticeable heat from the higher alcohol. Tannins cover the palate, gums, and cheeks . Sweet tobacco, black fruits like plum and cherry. The tannins are pretty big, this is going to be a big wine on all levels. A long and silky finish! Not as noticeably acidic as the 2010 but I think that is ok and makes for an interesting counterpart to taste next to 2010.
2010 BARREL SAMPLE
When tasting such a young barrel sample you need to know what to expect. It’s not like tasting a finished wine, as you look for more primary flavors and textures in measuring balance on the palate. Since a nose is not as prevalent, you immediately go to the palate and you taste and feel the wine immediately. Massive tannins are the first thing I notice on this wine. Smoke, currants, and cassis reveal some pretty complete flavors that emerge through a forest of tannins and a sea of acidity. This is going to be a profound wine for the ages as it will take many years to mature. 2010 Brane is similar to 2005 in my opinion, but could be better. I’d be curious as to what the barrel sample for 2005 tasted like at this stage to compare to 2010.
Thank you to Corinne and Chris for organizing such an enlightening event. I feel like I know more about Brane, barrel tasting Bordeaux futures, and vintage variation. I look forward to tasting Brane from my collection over the coming years. I think on my next trip to Bordeaux I will have to make a stop at Brane to visit Corinne.