Brane Cantenac 2010, Margaux, Medoc, Bordeaux, France
Varietal: Red Bordeaux Blend (62% Cabernet Sauvignon 30% Merlot and 8% Cabernet Franc)
Appellation: Margaux, Bordeaux, France
Drinking Window: 2018-2048
Alcohol content: 14% vol
Scores (if you care about): Wine Spectator: 93/100;
Stephen Tanzer/Vinous: 91/100; JancisRobinson.com 17/20;
The vineyards amount to 75 hectares in the Margaux appellation and have been subject to intensive soil-mapping following Henri Lurton's arrival at the estate in 1992. Subsequently there has been a gradual increase in the proportion of Cabernet Sauvignon planted here, although only in those areas where the vineyard studies showed the soil to be suited to this variety. Broadly speaking, the mapping process (as well as the tasting experience at the château) describes three main terroirs; the first and the most valued is a large sweep of gravel in front of the château at the top of the Margaux-Cantenac plateau, the Plateau de Brane as it is also known, at a height of about 22 metres above sea level. Perhaps the most important feature of this land is the thick layer of surface gravel, up to 12 metres deep in places, which provides both radiant heat to the vines as well as excellent drainage. The water table is fairly deep, says Christophe Capdeville, about 6 metres below the surface, and the roots drink deep as a result, their growth downwards encouraged by superficial ploughing which was reintroduced 1994. The wines from this section of the vineyard are marked by high-quality tannins with a silky-velvety presence.
The vines are planted at densities up to 8000 vines per hectare, and have an average age of 35 years. Cabernet Sauvignon covers 55% of the vineyard, with 40% Merlot, 4.5% Cabernet Franc and 0.5% Carmenère. Petit Verdot doesn't have a significant role here; it does play its part in Bordeaux, but usually on more clay-rich and humid terroirs, says Capdeville, closer to the river, and thus not at Brane-Cantenac which lies at the 'drier' end of the plateau.
At harvest time the fruit is picked by hand with typical yields around 45 hl/ha, and then transported in from the vines using the Air Tec system which cushions the fruit, protecting it from damage with its pneumatic suspension. Once in the reception area the fruit is emptied by gentle vibration, further protecting it from damage. It also sees a double sorting, once in the vineyard on a Viniclean table, and a second time upon arrival in the cellar. Here the fruit is mechanically destemmed and then sorted using optical technology, in this case a Delta Vistalys machine manufactured by Bucher Vaslin. Clearly there is no shying away from new technologies at Brane-Cantenac; indeed, the Air Tec system was developed and modified principally by Henri Lurton. Today it can be found not just here but also at Léoville-Las-Cases, Calon-Ségur and Pichon-Lalande.
The freshly harvested fruit sees a cold soak. The fermentation is induced by inoculation with yeast, and in the first few vats there may also be contemporaneous inoculation with malolactic bacteria. The fermentation is naturally temperature controlled, and may last between 7 and 10 days.
The fruit will see a maceration lasting between 20 and 30 days before pressing using two pneumatic presses, and both the free-run and press wines are then fed into barrels, using 60-70% new oak, ready for malolactic fermentation. The wines are then left on their lees for several months, with topping up being the principal intervention. Following the tastings to determine the blends in spring the process of racking begins, following a traditional three-monthly cycle. Barrels from a number of different coopers are used, including Seguin-Moreau and Taransaud, although as the wine is racked from barrel to barrel the effect of any one cooper is not so evident. The wines continue this process, with 18 months for the grand vin, Château Brane-Cantenac.
The 2010 vintage is uncannily similar to the previous vintage: a dry year but with water reserves that had been replenished the previous fall. The cool nights of a pleasant summer imparted full aromatic expression and unusually high levels of phenolic compounds. The climate in 2010 corresponded marvelously to Brane’s terroir. The plateau’s clay-like gravel subsoil can give the vines the humidity the grapes need to mature in conditions of extreme dryness. Aromatic expression also being a major quality of this terroir, it was particularly rich at Brane this year. The severity of the blend may seem surprising but it was the key to a perfect balance.
Tasting Notes and Reviews
Nov 2014, the Chateau described the Brane Cantenac 2010 as:
Our 2010’s are going through an evolutionary period and are quite closed at the moment – a good sign that they will be all the better in a few years’ time. The nose was highly aromatic a few months ago but has recently become more restrained. In the mouth the wine has incredible concentration and soft, fine tannins that are relatively unpronounced. The wine has a remarkable freshness with perfectly ripe fruit flavours. Excellent length with a magnificent spicy finish and velvety texture
"Bright ruby-red. Currant, bitter chocolate and a complex leafy quality on the nose. Then juicy, spicy and perfumed on the palate, with good peppery lift to the bright, concentrated flavors of cherry, spices, smoke and graphite complicated by cedar and tobacco nuances. Really textbook claret here, with the length and tannic spine for at least two decades of positive development in bottle"-Stephen Tanzer/Vinous, Jul 2013
"Relatively restrained on the nose at the moment with an attractive, delicate cedary herbaceous touch. Lithe and firm on the palate. Not giving much away but refined and long." 17/20, Julia Harding, jancisrobinson.com Nov 2012
"This is dark and grippy, with charcoal, roasted bay and chestnut leaf notes fronting a muscular core of steeped black currant, loganberry and black cherry flavors. Taut plum pit and iron hints thread the finish, revealing a lingering charcoal note. Very solid and suited for aging. Best from 2015 through 2028." 93/100, Wine Spectator
"The nose here really stands out, with an elegant and expressive character, the dark fruits coming with a very welcome perfume. A confident style indeed. The palate has some dark creamed fruits, concentrated and rich, ripe and like the aromatics with a perfumed edge. Grippy too, as appropriate for the vintage, with fresh acids. A very impressive wine, finely honed rather than fat, and a really strong effort for Brane-Cantenac." 17/20, Thewinedoctor.com, Nov 2012
Excerpts for the Chateau Profile, vintage and tasting notes, courtsey Thewinedoctor.com & http://www.brane-cantenac.com/en/