Monday, May 28, 2012

Château Brane-Cantenac, Deuxieme Grand Cru Classe en 1855, Margaux – A Profile, France

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller at Château Brane-Cantenac in Margaux and with Henri Lurton in Washington DC.

Château Brane-Cantenac is a Deuxieme Grand Cru Classe en 1855 in Margaux. In 1922, it was acquired by the Lurton family. In 1992, control passed to the current owner Henri Lurton, who I recently met in Washington DC.

Henri Lurton and the Lurton Family

The Lurtons are one of Bordeaux's great wine dynasties. With more than 1,000 hectares 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 Andre, Dominique, Lucien and Simone took wine making seriously and between them began to build an empire. Lucien and André, in particular, acquired châteaux that were in a bad shape and brought them back on track.

I used to buy the Chateau Bonnet of André Lurton, when I was a student in Mainz, Germany; it is a good quality AOC Bordeaux at a very reasonable price. André is still running his business, while Lucien has handed over the 11 estates that he had gradually acquired to his 10 children.

There are also other family members are flying winemakers and manage wineries. Pierre Lurton, the son of Dominique Lurton is chief executive at Cheval Blanc and Château d'Yquem.

Here is an interesting chart about the holdings of the Lurton family, although a bit out-dated.

History of Chateau Brane Cantenac

Originally known as Chateau Gorce, Brane Cantenac was one of most venerated Left Bank estates in the 1700s and 1800s. During the Gorce family’s 100-year tenure, the wines fetched prices similar to those for Chateau Brane Mouton – the precursor to Mouton Rothschild.

Chateau Brane Mouton owner Baron Hector de Brane sold Brane Mouton in 1833 to purchase Chateau Gorce and renamed it Chateau Brane Cantenac. In 1920, the Société des Grands Crus de France purchased Brane Cantenac and 5 years later, M. Récapet and his son-in-law François Lurton, took over Château Margaux along with Château Brane Cantenac.  Lucien Lurton inherited Chateau Brane-Cantenac in 1956. He passed it on to Henri Lurton in 1992.

Chateau Brane-Cantenac

Brane-Cantenac’s vineyard totals 94 hectares. The grape varieties are 62.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc and 0.5 Carmenère.

Picture: Baron de Brane and the Grand Vin

Producing annually a total of 30,000 cases, Chateau Brane-Cantenac makes 4 wines: The 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.

The 2010 vintage of the Grand Vin currently sells (en primeur) for about Euro 75 per bottle, including VAT. The Baron de Brane sells at Euro 15 to 25 for various vintages. I have seen Château Notton for around Euro 20 for different vintages. I believe I saw the generic Margaux recently for perhaps Euro 15.

I had the pleasure to meet Henri Lurton at MacArthur’s Wine and Beverages in Washington DC in April 2010. See: "Henri Lurton and his Chateau Brane Cantenac Wines" Before Henri Lurton took over, Brane Cantenac was perceived as an underperforming property. This has changed with Henri taking over the reign, due to extensive investment in the cuverie and chai, as well as vastly improved vineyard management techniques.

Henri Lurton: “Like in the rest of Medoc, we rely on Cabernet Sauvignon. We are aiming at increasing the share of Cabernet Sauvignon to 70%. We are experimenting with Carmenére in a half hectare of plot, so we use about 0.5% in the blend.”

Pictures: Chateau Brane-Cantenac

“For full ripening, it is essential to do the phenolic and other tests before harvest but it is also important to actually taste the grapes to decide if they are fully ripe. My father taught me this process years ago before many people in Bordeaux made this a routine. Now, I can pretty much taste grapes from different parts of the vineyard and tell if it is fully ripe.”

Henri Lurton on Robert Parker: “Robert Parker prefers powerful wines rather than the more elegant wines we make. So, we have not been able to command the prices they deserve in my view. But I must emphasize that overall Robert Parker has done a lot for Bordeaux.”

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