The Unusual Suspect...
Chateau Brane-Cantenac 2001
Intriguing post title, isn't it? Well, let me explain.
Yesterday, I've opened 2 bottles of Château Brane-Cantenac 2001, for a private lunch.
The weather was hot, heavy, and humid. And, because a Bordeaux red was requested for that lunch, (instead of a fresh and cold white or rosé, or even a light Burgundy red, surely more appropriate for lunch on such a hot day), I checked what I had in stock, and decided to go for something rather unusual, light and feminine, which led me to a "Margaux", in a lesser and "non-solar" vintage: 2001, which ended up being both satisfying and very surprising...
At first, I was a bit reluctant to choose this wine, as Brane-Cantenac is an unassuming wine and a rather low-key estate, far from the "flamboyance" and "prestige" of some of its peers, (from the same rank or lower). We all know that this has nothing to do with the quality of its wine, yet, one must admit that Brane-Cantenac is not the first Chateau name that comes to mind when deciding to open a bottle of wine from Margaux (no offence to its owner Henri Lurton, who has been doing a good job since he took over his father Lucien Lurton, back in 1992).
Moreover, despite major efforts and investments within the last 10-15 years, and despite its classification as "2nd growth" in the 1855 Classification, Brane-Cantenac is considered by some as an "underachiever" that has always kept a low profile and a reputation for producing clean and consistent, yet, rather light, if not thin, fresh, crisp, and agreeable wines, even if slightly dry, tannic, stern and even austere, "Classic Bordeaux Style" as the Bordelais like to say, more especially in lesser vintage.
So, I can already hear you say that if I was reluctant to choose and serve this wine, why serve it? I could have chosen another one from the client's stock or bought something different from one of the selected local HK wine shops I buy from, occasionally, for this type of private lunch. Granted. However, due to time constraints, budget restrictions and a few other factors, I had to choose from another stock, where options were limited.
And that said, although local HK suppliers and wine retailers have interesting portfolios, including vast arrays of wines from around the world to choose from, they don't always necessarily have the right Chateau/Domaine/Producer/Cru and/or vintage that I'm looking for and/or that will trigger my interest, and/or do not have enough bottles of it.
Like everywhere else in the world, the best wines and best vintages often go quite quickly, bought mainly by the restaurants and private buyers (and even competitors who resell them later on). Consequently, it is not surprising to find a majority of the supplier's portfolios with mostly off or lesser vintages left to choose from, especially in the range of HKD 2,000 and less (around 240 Euros / 255 USD)
As the weather was hot, heavy, and humid, I was looking for something rather light and easy to pair with the menu's wide array of Western and Asian food dishes. Amongst the list I had to choose from, not only this Brane-Cantenac 2001 was the most suitable for the situation, (amongst the Bordeaux available at my immediate disposal), but it was also one of the few within the requested price range I could buy from.
Basically, I did not have much of a choice in the given circumstances (a lesson learned the hard way, as we say, I will make sure it does not happen again).
However, I was thinking that it would probably be ok. As, despite the fact that 2001 was a terrible vintage for Bordeaux in general, that produced hard, dry, green, even slightly under-ripe, tannic, and astringent wines, which were very tight and closed in their youth (for most Bordeaux regions), surprisingly enough, lots of these same Bordeaux 2001 have evolved really well and are drinking very pleasantly now.
A rather "surprising" vintage I must say, which, in its youth, did not give any signs or indications that it will turn that way two decades later (in my opinion).
With time, the hard tannins have mellowed down and become more integrated. Some of the rough edges have rounded down too, and the overall profile of most Bordeaux wines, from this specific vintage, seems also more balanced and harmonious than it was 5-10 years ago.
Bordeaux will never cease to surprise me, as TIME is, more often than none, its saviour, as even lesser or bad vintages may end up being good if you have the patience to wait for them and let time do its magic. It does not necessarily work for most wines in the rest of the world, but, it seems that most of the Top Bordeaux wines have been blessed by the God of wine ("Dionysus", also spelt "Dionysos", also called "Bacchus" or (in Rome) "Liber Pater"), which conferred them with the ability to get "better" (*) with time, even if they were not that great to start with.
(*) Not necessarily true for some of them, which were mediocre or bad, to begin with, and did not get better but worst with time. Yet, overall, it always seems that even in bad years, like a cat, Bordeaux always falls back on its feet and gets the best of it against all odds.
I will stop here, as, once again, as I love sharing my views and opinions, I have deviated from the main original subject of this post, let's go back to the wine, shall we?
I took the wine out of the wine fridge about 1 hour before decantation, to let it rest standing up and thus allow for the sediments to fall at the bottom of the bottle. Then I decanted the wine roughly about 1 hour and a half before serving, as I knew it will surely be tight and will need time to breathe.
I did it even though a part of me was hesitating as lesser Bordeaux vintages may not always need decantation. However, I knew already, having opened Brane-Cantenac 2001, quite a few times in recent months and years, that it will need some aeration and needed decantation, at least to separate it from the sediments, quite present in this particular vintage (as you see on the picture above).
2001 Chateau Brane-Cantenac Margaux Bordeaux France
Estimated Average Market Price HKD 910 (around 110 Euros / 116 USD)
At the opening, as expected, the wine was tight and closed, yet, to a certain extent, fresh, and crisp, with timid aromas of unripe red cherries mingling with some earthy and animal notes, as well as hints of green leaf and minerals. I decanted it slowly to expose it to the maximum of air while filling the decanter, and prevent heavily present sediments to fall into it.
Then I tasted the wine. As expected for a 2001 vintage, it was rather thin and austere, lacking a bit of depth and complexity, showing slightly present (yet fairly integrated) tannins, what people in Bordeaux usually refer to as "an elegant Margaux in a classic Bordeaux style". That said, it was not unpleasant at all, showing off, in a better way, flavours similar to the aromas of the nose, like red cherry, and raspberry, but also darker fruit like black current, combined with liquorice, earth, minerals and some oaky and vegetal notes. Fairly balanced overall with good acidity and a good dose of tannins, but not off-putting, rather light, lacking a bit of depth and texture despite having some structure. The finish was a bit short to my liking. Overall, it appeared to me as still pretty young and fresh, with slightly unripe red fruit tones and vegetal notes that just needed some time to round up with air.
🍷🍷🍷Work in progress... post to be finished soon🍷🍷🍷
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