Friday, August 21, 2009

Two Great Wines from Chateau Brane-Cantenac

Chateau Brane-Cantenac, the great Second Growth in Margaux, has always been one of my favorite wines of the region for both its gorgeous typical flavor profile and its affordability when you consider both where it’s from and how much pure pleasure it delivers.

I had the chance to visit the chateau this past May during the Wine School’s annual trip, which this year was to Bordeaux. We tasted a number of wines, including several vintages of both the Brane-Cantenac and the chateau’s second wine, Baron de Brane. I was, as expected, very impressed with the wines and fascinated to see the differences between the vintages.

I’ll be posting video of the chateau and vineyards next week, but today I want to focus on two wines from generally less-lauded vintages, the 2004 and 2006, which, as is so often the case, prove that bottlings produced immediately prior to or following a classic year, though often overlooked, can really demand a lot of respect on their own, if only they’re given the chance.

The 2004 Brane-Cantenac leads off with an elegant, gently smoky nose of great finesse and a delicate sense of perfume. A French-toast note anchors it, with a hint of boysenberry singing up top. The palate, perhaps surprisingly for the vintage, is a touch exotic, though the fresh acid, grilled pepper, and licorice keep it anchored and lead to a mouthwatering finish spiked with a lovely herbal note, cherry, spicy cedar, and more licorice.

The 2006, on the other hand, is more dramatic at first, with aromas of flowers, leather, smoke, and wild strawberries. If they ever bottle this wine as a perfume, I’m buying a case of it for my wife—the nose is just amazing. The structure of the palate is really impressive and lasts through the finish, promising 10-20 years of evolution in the cellar. Cedar, sandalwood, grilled graphite, and cassis sing on through, as well as notes of caramel and hoisin sauce. It’s difficult to resist, but I’d hold off on popping it open for another five years, when it should be drinking even better than it is right now. What a truly great wine.


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