This past week In Vino Veritas kept us busy with two tastings. The first tasting was hosted by Patrick Maroteaux, President of Château Branaire-Ducru. Brainaire-Ducru is a Fourth Growth Grand Cru Classé 1855, AOC Saint-Julien. The estate lies over a bed of gravel soil and has 50 hectares of vines planted, with an average age of 35 years. The varietal breakdown is 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc, and 3% Petit Verdot.
In the cellar Branaire-Ducru has a gravity-flow style winery. The primary fermentation lasts for about 3 weeks in stainless steel vats. About one-third of the production undergoes malolactic fermentation in new oak barrels. Then all of the wine is transferred to barrel—55 to 65% new French oak—to age for 16 to 22 months. On average Brainaire-Ducru pumps out 22,000 cases of wine per year, split between the first label Chateau Brainaire-Ducru, and the second label, Duluc de Branaire-Ducru.
One quick note for The Grand Crew, regarding an interesting point made during Mr. Maroteaux’s presentation. Patrick commented on the debate regarding the 1855 Classification of the Haut-Medoc and Sauternes and whether or not it should be revised. He said that this question is posed often and he is adamantly against any revision, even considering that his wine would actually be upgraded. Mr. Maroteaux conceded that the Classification system is clearly unfair, as are all classification systems by definition. However, he noted that regardless of the classifications, the market has adjusted the prices accordingly and there are many cases of Fourth Growths selling at prices higher than Second and First Growths. And then of course there’s the case of wines like Petrus and Cheval Blanc that were completely left out of the classification and yet are respected the world over and demand at times astronomical prices. Furthermore, Mr. Maroteaux noted that there is a sense of mystique, legend, culture and history behind the 1855 Classification that would be completely lost if any revision were to be made. And it’s this mystique and sense of prestige that makes so many foreigners interested in exploring the beauty of Bordeaux wine. In short, Mr. Maroteaux sees no industry gain from any revision and considers the cultural and historic loss to be too great. What do you think?
The tasting …
2005 Duluc de Branaire-Ducru
Tasting Notes: Dark ruby red in the glass. Rather simple and straightforward nose, with bright, sweet and sour fruits and cassis. A little unbalanced in the mouth, with medium tannins and flavors of dark chocolate and sour cherries.
Rating: 12/20 (WS 88)
Price: $50 @ Snooth.com
2005 Château Branaire-Ducru
Tasting Notes: Ruby red in the glass. The nose is elegant with finesse and aromas of cassis and violets. The tannins are more pronounced, a little bitter even, and there is a juicy acidity and flavors of leather, black fruits, and blackberries. I wonder if the wine is going through its dumb phase because it was lacking expression and was a little closed.
Rating: 13/20 (WS 92)
Price: $72 @ Wine Spectator current auction price
2007 Château Branaire-Ducru
Tasting Notes: Dark violet in the glass. The nose is refreshing, almost wintergreen-like, with additional aromas of cassis and olive oil. The wine’s a little thin in the mouth, with light tannins and flavors of soy sauce, strawberry, and blackberry.
Rating: 12/20 (WS 88)
Price: $48 @ Wine Spectator on release
2006 Château Branaire-Ducru
Tasting Notes: Dark violet in the glass. A fresh nose with more finesse than the 2007, and aromas of oak and blackberries. In the mouth the wine has a good balance with strong tannins, a full body, and a very mild saltiness accompanied by black and red fruits.
Rating: 14/20 (WS 90)
Price: $53 @ Wine Spectator on release
2001 Château Branaire-Ducru
Tasting Notes: Violet in the glass. The most complex and elegant wine of the evening. There are aromas of sweet violets, cassis, and oak. Well balanced in the mouth with a great juicy acidity up front and velvety tannins and a full body. There are flavors of raspberry, cassis and vanilla.
Rating: 16/20 (WS 90)
Price: $35 @ Wine Spectator on release