Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Henri Lurton and his Château Brane-Cantenac Wines

Picture: Henri Lurton and Christian G.E.Schiller

I had the pleasure of meeting Henri Lurton, owner of and winemaker at Chateau Brane-Cantenac, at MacArthur’s Wine and Beverages in Washington DC in April 2010.

Château Brane-Cantenac

Château Brane-Cantenac is a Deuxieme Grand Cru  Classe en 1855 winery in Margaux. In the early 20th century the vineyard lost much of its reputation. In 1922 it was acquired by the Lurton family. In 1992 control passed to Henri Lurton, whom I met.

Picture: Map of Bordeaux

Brane-Cantenac’s vineyard totals 94 hectares (230 acres). Production is 30,000 cases. The grape varieties cultivated are 62.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 0.5 Carmenère. Brane-Cantenac makes in addition to its Grand vin, the second wine Baron de Brane, an additional label named Château Notton using grapes from the Notton vineyard, a plot acquired from Château d'Angludet, and a generic Margaux wine with grapes sourced from young vineyards.

Henri Lurton and the Lurton Family

The Lurtons are one of Bordeaux's great wine dynasties. With some 3,000 acres in the region, they are collectively Bordeaux's largest holder of wine-producing land. The family members own more than 20 Châteaux and manage several well known properties. They are also active in the New World and the South of France.

The Lurton family is not some centuries-old French aristocratic dynasty. They are new-comers. It all began in the 1920s with Léonce Récapet, who was a prosperous distiller and vineyard owner in the Entre Deux Mers region. His daughter married François Lurton. Their 4 children took wine making seriously and between them began to build an empire. Lucien and André, in particular, acquired wine estates that were in a bad shape and brought them back on track.

I used to buy the Chateau Bonnet of Andre Lurton, when I was a student in Mainz, Germany; it is a good quality AOC Bordeaux at a very reasonable price. Andre is still running his business, while Lucien has handed over the 11 estates that he had gradually acquired to his 10 children: Châteaux Brane Cantenac, Haut Nouchet, Château Climens, Durfort Vivens, Camarsac, Tour de Bessan, Bouscaut, Duplessis, Desmirail, Villegeorge and Doisy Dubroca. In addition, other family members are flying winemakers and manage wineries. Pierre Lurton is chief executive at Cheval Blanc.

Here is an interesting chart about the holdings of the Lurton family.

Bordeaux and its Classifications

There are four different classifications of Bordeaux, covering different parts of the region:

(1) The Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855, covering (with one exception) red wines of Médoc, and sweet wines of Sauternes-Barsac. Château Brane-Cantenac is a Deuxieme Grand Cru Classe en 1855 winery in Margaux.

The 1855 classification system was made at the request of Emperor Napoleon III for the Exposition Universelle de Paris. It ranked the wines into five categories mainly according to price.

The first growths are:

• Château Lafite-Rothschild, in the appellation Pauillac
• Château Margaux, in the appellation Margaux
• Château Latour, in the appellation Pauillac
• Château Haut-Brion, in the appellation Péssac-Leognan
• Château Mouton Rothschild, in the appellation Pauillac, promoted from second to first growth in 1973.

At the same time, the sweet white wines of Sauternes and Barsac were classified into three categories, with only Château d'Yquem being classified as a superior first growth.

(2) The St. Émilion Classification was introduced in 1955, with 3 levels. It is revised every 10 years. The most recent revision is the one of 2006. There are now: 15 Premier Grand Cru Classé, devided into 2 classes 'A' and 'B' (with Château Cheval Blanc and Château Ausone the two top names)and 46 Grand Cru Classé.

Unusually, the St. Emilion 1955 Classification is integrated with the AOC system of St. Emilion, comprising 3 appellations: (1) Appellation St. Emilion Controlee, (2) Appellation St. Emilion Grand Cru Controlee, and (3) Appellation St.Emilion Grand Cru Classee Controlee. This creates a lot of confusion for the non-expert wine drinker. First, the material difference between the first and the second group, the "Controlee" and "Grand Cru Controlee" wines, is minor; over two hundred Saint-Émilion wines carry the description "Grand Cru Controlee", although they are no way at the "Grand Cru", i.e. at the top level. Second, the difference on the label between second and the third group, the "Grand Cru Controlee" and "Grand Cru Classee Controlee", is minor, just the word "Classee", although only the latter are the top wines of the 1955 Classification.

(3) The 1959 Official Classification of Graves, initially classified in 1953 and revised in 1959.

(4) The Cru Bourgeois Classification, which began as an unofficial classification, but came to enjoy official status and was last updated in 2003. However, after various legal turns, the classification was annulled in 2007.

There is no official classification applied to Pomerol. However some Pomerol wines, notably Château Pétrus and Château Le Pin, are often considered as being equivalent to the first growths of the 1855 classification, and often sell for even higher prices.

Finally, Bordeaux has some 57 AOCs in 3 levels. The lowest ranking is the Bordeaux AC, the middle rankings are district wines, like Médoc AC and the highest level are commune wines, like Margaux AC. Bordeaux Supérieur AC indicates that the wine has a bit more alcohol than a Bordeaux AC.

What Henri Lurton Poured

Le Baron de Brane (Margaux) 2008

58% Cabernet Sauvingon, 40% Merlot, 2 % Cabernet Franc

Tasting notes: Ruby in the glass, nose of pepper and strawberries, medium- to full bodied wine, good structure, black fruits with roasted coffee on the palate, long finish.

Chateau Brane-Cantenac (Margaux) 2008

70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 28%Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc

Tasting notes: Ruby in the glass, strawberries and vanilla on the nose, a medium- to full-bodied wine, round tannins, with good concentration and a long finish.

Le Baron de Brane (Margaux) 2006

60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 36% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc

Tasting notes: Ruby in the glass, appealing on the nose, with ripe dark fruits and some oak, a medium- to full bodied wine, good acidity, cherries on the palate with a gentle layer of ripe tannins, long finish.

Chateau Brane-Cantenac (Margaux) 2006

70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot

Tasting notes: Ruby in the glass, notes of spices, pepper and sandalwood on the nose, a medium- to full bodied wine, good structure, soft, round, creamy on the palate, with cassis and blackcurrant, has a well balanced character, lingering finish.

Bordeaux in 5 Minutes

If you want to get a quick introduction to Bordeaux, go to Heike Larsson's vinum diligo blog . Also, Chateau Brane Cantenac has a very active Facebook Fan Page.

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1 comment:

  1. Château Brane-CantenacMay 23, 2010 at 3:14 AM

    Wunderbar!!! Thank you so much... we need more professional like you in this business!!!! keep up the fantastic work. See you soon at Brane we hope!