If you love fine wine, you probably know that the Chamber of Commerce of Haut Medoc classified the best wines in the region into five growths, or classes. To this day, French children are rumored to sing the names of the five First Growths in a nursery rhyme.
Yet what about the prestigious Deuxièmes Crus? Who among us will sing their praises? You will find fourteen Chateaux labeled Deuxièmes Cru, and while their winemaking standards are as high as the First Growths, they are decidedly more affordable while retaining the same aura of glamour and prestige. Today I would like to introduce you to Chateau Brane-Cantenac, a delicious and collectible Deuxièmes Cru from the Margaux AOC in the Haut Medoc.
Curiously enough, I was first introduced to Chateau Brane-Cantenac at a lunch to celebrate the release of Remy Martin Cognac 1989 at a trendy French bistro in Manhattan. Once our hosts ordered the wine, I noticed a flurry of excitement in the room and reached for my pen and notebook to record tasting notes for the Brane-Cantenac 2004, noting the rich, velvety aromas of blackberries, raspberries, cherry, violet, and oak. A bit more than a year later, I found myself invited by this prestigious Chateau for a very private dinner celebrating several vintages from this chateau.
The Chateau’s history can be traced to the early 18th century when it was purchased by Baron Hector de Brane in 1833, the man largely responsible for the identification of Cabernet Sauvignon as the Medoc’s premier grape. Upon Baron Hector’s death, the estate fell into many hands before its present owners, the Lurton family, took ownership.
Today, Henri Lurton is the owner and proprietor of this prestigious property. Mr. Lurton, an affable and pleasant man who speaks perfect English, guides me through the vineyards and areas where crushing, fermentation, and maturation are performed. A natural thought is that Mr. Lurton is an extremely lucky man for having inherited a Deuxièmes Cru estate. Yet if you have been in the wine world for a while, you know that the seeming excitement and glamour of being the proprietor of a Deuxièmes Cru estate is really just fodder for romance novels and glossy gossip magazines. In reality, producing any wine, be it Deuxièmes Cru or Vin de Pay, is a hard business. Hale, frost, disease, and fungi can destroy an entire vintage. Banks are not always friendly. And consumers expect consistent quality or they will take their business elsewhere.