What we know of today as Chateau Brane Cantenac started out in the early 17th century. At the time, the small estate was known as Domaine Guilhem Hosten. Even in those days, wine was produced from the property. The vineyards and estate were developed by the owner in the late 1700’s, the Gorce family.
In fact, even back then, their wine was so highly regarded, it was one of the more expensive wines in all of Bordeaux selling for almost as much money as Brane Mouton. This is interesting because of who went on to buy the vineyard in the 1800’s.
The Baron of Brane, also known as “Napoleon of the Vineyards”, purchased the chateau in 1833. At the time of the sale, the estate was called Chateau Gorce-Guy. To obtain the funds needed to purchase the vineyard, the Baron sold what is now called Chateau Mouton Rothschild, which was at the time of the sale was known as Chateau Brane-Mouton.
In 1838, the Baron renamed property, merging his name with the name of the sector where the vineyards were located, calling it Chateau Brane Cantenac. The chateau later passed to the Roy family, who were well-known in the Margaux appellation in those days, as they owned Chateau dIssan as well.
Jumping into the next century, in 1920, the Societe des Grands Crus de France, a group of merchants and growers that owned several chateaux located in the Medoc including; Chateau Margaux, Chateau Giscours, and Chateau Lagrange in St. Julien, purchased Chateau Brane Cantenac.
Chateau Brane Cantenac The Modern Era
Five years later, M. Recapet and his son-in-law, François Lurton, took over Brane Cantenac along with Chateau Margaux. Lucien Lurton (the son of François Lurton) inherited Brane Cantenac in 1956. Today, the estate is still in the hands of the Lurton family. Brane Cantenac is currently owned and more than ably managed by the capable, Henri Lurton.
After being given the responsibility of managing Brane Cantenac, it was under the direction of Henri Lurton that large portions of the vineyard were replanted. Vine densities were increased, the drainage systems were improved and the plantings were also, slowly changed to their current plantings.
Chateau Brane Cantenac took time to excel. But starting with the 2009 vintage, every year has seen vast improvements in character and quality. 2015, 2018 and 2019 are however, the best wines produced in the long history of the estate.
The 75 hectare vineyard of Brane Cantenac is planted to 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot, 4.5% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot and .5% Carmenere. Carmenere was used for the first time in the 2011 vintage. The Petit Verdot was planted in 2008. 2017 is the first vintage where Petit Verdot was added to the blend.
The 75 hectare Left Bank vineyard of Brane Cantenac is essentially unchanged since it earned Second Growth status in the 1855 Classification of the Medoc. The entire vineyard can be divided into 120 separate parcels.
At least that is the case with the 45 hectares used to produce the Grand Vin of Brane Cantenac. Those 45 hectares are planted close to, and surrounding the chateau. Those vines are located just in front of the Cantenac plateau and are the best terroir that Brane Cantenac owns.
At its peak, the vineyard has an elevation of 22 meters. That parcel is the heart and soul of their wine. Not just for the elevations, but for the depth of the gravel which can be as deep as 12 meters.
They have other parcels, which are further inland. But much of those grapes are placed into their second wine. Those additional hectares can be divided into 3 main sections.
Behind the chateau, they have 15 hectares of vines on gravel and sandy soils. They have 10 hectares across the road with sand, gravel and iron and a 13 hectare parcel with gravelly clay called Notton, which is used for their second wine. More than vineyards, the property maintains beautifully, manicured gardens and verdant parkland.
The vineyard is planted to a vine density that ranges from 6,666 vines per hectare on the plateau and up to 8,000 vines per hectare for the vines located behind chateau, in their sandier soils.
The higher levels of vine density are always found in the newer plantings. The terroir of Brane Cantenac consists of deep gravel, sand and clay soil. On going experiments in the vineyards are currently looking at becoming more organic in their vineyard management.
Today, more than 20% of Brane Cantenac is farmed using organic farming techniques. It is expected that over time, the amount of hectares farmed with organic methods will be increased. 4 of those hectares are farmed using biodynamic techniques as well.
Brane Cantenac has gone through 2 relatively recent modernization’s in 1999, when they added began adding the first of their smaller vats to allow for parcel by parcel vinification and then again in 2015 when they completed a much more complete renovation of their cellars and vat rooms.
While Brane Cantenac is a traditional producer, they are no stranger to technology as they were one of the first estates to embrace optical sorting technology. In very wet vintages, they can also use reverse osmosis.
Brane Cantenac White Wine
3 hectares of vines they own in the Haut Medoc appellation are planted to white Bordeaux wine varietals due to the the cooler terroir in that part of the appellation. The soils are gravelly clay. The vines are planted to 80% Sauvignon Blanc and 20% Semillon. 2019 was the first vintage the wine was produced.
Chateau Brane Cantenac Winemaking
To produce the wine of Chateau Brane Cantenac, the wine is vinified in a combination of temperature controlled, traditional, 22 oak vats, 18 concrete tanks and 20 stainless steel vats that vary in size from 40 hectoliters all the way up to 200 hectoliters, which allows for parcel by parcel vinification.
40% of the fermentation takes place in the oak vats. The remainder is done in stainless steel and concrete. The oldest vines are vinified in the oak vats that are selected to allow for separate parcel by parcel vinification.
The younger vines are vinified more often together in the same vats. However, the Carmenere and Petit Verdot are entirely micro-vinified, meaning that those grapes are completely vinified in their own French oak barrels, using micro-vinification techniques.
This takes place with the Carmenere and Petit Verdot because the amount of grapes produced is so small. Some vats can of Brane Cantenac be co-inoculated, meaning they go though alcoholic fermentation and malolactic fermentation simultaneously.
At Chateau Brane Cantenac, malolactic fermentation takes place in a combination of French oak tanks and barrels. The majority of the Grand Vin goes through malolactic in barrel. The wine of Brane Cantenac is aged in an average of 60% new, French oak barrels for 17 months before bottling. The initial 2 months of aging is done with the wine on its lees, which adds more depth to the wine.
There is a second wine, Le Baron de Brane. The use of a second wine at Brane Cantenac is not new. In fact, previously, the second wine went under the name of Chateau Notton, which took its name from one of the main parcels where the grapes were planted. There is a third wine, Margaux de Brane, which is usually Merlot dominated and is made from the estates youngest vines.
During the late 1950’s and into the 1960’s, having a second wine was important as the estate declassified 3 vintages, due to extremely poor, weather conditions, 1956, 1960 and 1963. Production of Chateau Brane Cantenac is about 11,000 cases per year.
When to Drink Chateau Brane Cantenac, Anticipated Maturity, Decanting Time
Chateau Brane Cantenac, due to its elegant, feminine style, can be enjoyed young, with decanting. But you are missing all the nuances that come with age. Young vintages can be decanted for an average of 2-3 hours, give or take. This allows the wine to soften and open its perfume. Older vintages might need very little decanting, just enough to remove the sediment.
Chateau Brane Cantenac is usually better with at least 10 years of bottle age. Of course that can vary slightly, depending on the vintage character. Chateau Brane Cantenac offers its best drinking and should reach peak maturity between 12-35 years of age after the vintage.
Serving Chateau Brane Cantenac with Wine, Food, Pairing Tips
Chateau Brane Cantenac is best served at 15.5 degrees Celsius, 60 degrees Fahrenheit. The cool, almost cellar temperature gives the wine more freshness and lift.
Chateau Brane Cantenac is best served with all types of classic meat dishes, veal, pork, beef, lamb, duck, game, roast chicken, roasted, braised and grilled dishes. Chateau Brane Cantenac is a perfect match with Asian dishes, hearty fish courses like tuna, salmon, mushrooms and pasta as well as cheese.
Chateau Brane Cantenac is an elegantly, styled Margaux, that is on the lighter, fresher, cleaner, brighter, and perhaps, slightly stern, or classic side of the style range.Especially in its youth. The wine is produced in a traditional style and shows a little more in the aromatics than the body.
The wine of Brane Cantenac has had, like many chateau, gone through its ups and downs.
Vintages made in the 1970’s, most the 1980’s and 1990’s, are not at the level the vineyard is capable of producing. However, the property has been showing serious improvements in their wine.