The must is aged on the lees for two months, with tasting for the blending performed in January. From November to April the wines are aged, and from April on the barrels are plugged tight with a silicon bung. They are racked every three months using compressed air during their first year, then every four months the second year.
In contrast to the new, high-tech winemaking equipment was the ancient cellar, dating back at least to the eighteenth century. Though the cellar had been modernized, some of the original brick wall had been kept intact, and this touch gives Brane-Cantenac its aura of romance.
Before dinner I tasted earlier vintages of Brane-Cantenac, including the winery’s second label, Baron de Brane 2008. Though young, I liked the well-balanced aroma and palate of delicate cherry. A special treat during dinner was the 2000 Brane-Cantenac, with its elegant nose of perfumed cherry and its well-constructed palate, offering a delicate blend of wild bramble fruit and well-balanced tannins. It was a lighter wine than I had anticipated with a great deal of finesse. I enjoyed the 1996 Baron-Cantenac as well, with its nose of stewed fruit and full bodied palate with its long finish and hints of truffle. The coup de grace was the pouring of the Chateau Brane-Cantenac 1959, with its palate of ripe, rich black, still fresh acidity, and flavors of dried fruit.
It is one thing to taste a wine, or read about a wine, and quite another to visit the vineyards where the grapes are produced and see firsthand how the wine is created. Terroir is everything.