As he shows me the 45 hectares adjacent to the chateau (Brane-Cantenac has 45 hectares more) and discusses the unique soil, Mr. Lurton speaks with the intensity and passion of an individual who has physically worked this very land for many years. I later find that he has a Masters in biology and a DEA in oenology as well as a diploma in oenology from the University of Bordeaux. Far from the fortunate son who happened to “luck out” in inheriting a Deuxièmes Cru Bordeaux Chateau, it turns out that Mr. Lurton also worked in South Africa, Australia, and Chile to perfect his winemaking skills.
During the tour, these are a few items of interest I discovered.
The grapes are picked by hand, varietal by varietal, plot by plot, at ripeness levels that will allow the winery to keep as much fruit flavor as possible. The date is decided after numerous phenolic and technological ripeness tests and also through a tasting of the berries by Mr. Lurton.
The grapes are given a first sorting on a table in the vineyard, and then they are transferred to the vat cellar in small stainless steel harvesting bins.
The grapes are weighed, which provides specific data about the yields and volume going into the vat. After a second sorting, they are de-stemmed. They are then sorted by an innovative system called Viniclean in which they are placed on a vibrating sorting table. This eliminates any dry skins, grapes affected by millerandage, pips, and tiny vegetal debris. A system of rotating brushes captures any pieces of leaf, stems, or leaf stalks. A final manual sorting is done on a table to ensure no MOG (material other than grapes) remains.
The musts undergo a cold pre-fermentation maceration during which ‘punching down’ equipment is used to accelerate the extraction of anthocyanins and primary flavors. It is interesting to note that some musts are concentrated using vacuum evaporation methods in order to increase the ratio of skins to juice when wet conditions have penetrated the skins and diluted the juice before harvest.
Alcoholic fermentation begins when musts are inoculated with selected F33 strains of yeast which produce little volatile acidity and improve the roundness of the wine. Fermentation lasts six to ten days depending on the conditions of the vintage. To increase color and tannin extraction, long and frequent pump-overs are performed.
Delestages (racking off the must to another vat before returning it on to the skins) are carried out as well as targeted punching down of the cap of skins. I found it interesting that Brane-Cantenac uses a Socma puncher – a pump that is immersed in the vat and which floods the cap with the fermenting must, thereby causing the cap to break up within a few minutes. This results in a better extraction of the phenolic compounds in a gentle, selective way.
Wines are fermented at temperatures varying from 26 – 31 Celsius with maceration lasting from 20 – 28 days at a temperature between 25 – 28 Celsius. Skins are pressed in two fixed Sutter pneumatic presses. Enzymes are added to the press wines to enable them to clarify quickly. The very best juices go through the malo-lactic fermentation in barrels.