A Great Second Growth • Chateau Brane-Cantenac

Brane-Cantenac was ranked a Second Growth in the 1855 Classification of the Médoc

The vineyard on the Plateau de Brane has some of the best gravels in the entire Margaux appellation.

The 12-metre deep gravelly outcrop is also rich in clay. The combined effect of the poor soil encourages, indeed forces, the vines to sink penetrating deep roots in search for nutrients. At the same time, the sandy topsoil and topography allow for water to run off after heavy downpours, thereby protecting the fruit from dilution in the event of summer rainstorms.

The other remarkable thing about the Plateau de Brane is the view it affords of the chateau. In fact, you don’t see all of it. The steps are missing.

At some points of the plateau, even a part of the ground floor of the well proportioned, two-storey chateau is shielded by the vines. The optical effect is corroborating evidence that the vineyard is on enviably high ground and, therefore, captures more sunlight and warmth than otherwise.

The vineyard of Brane Cantenac is 75 ha, planted to 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 4.5% Cabernet Franc and 0.5% Carmenere. The average vine age is 35 to 40 years (the Plateau de Brane itself is 30 ha, almost half the size of the total vineyard).

Henri Lurton (right) took over Chateau Brane-Cantenac in 1992 from his father. On his maternal side, he is related to the philosopher Montaigne of the French Renaissance. On the left is Eric Boissenot, consultant to about 200 wine estates including Brane-Cantenac, Lafite, Chateau Margaux, Latour, Mouton, Leoville Las Cases, Leoville Barton, Ducru Beaucaillou, and Beychevelle

The Plateau de Brane is a 30-hectare plot near the chateau on a high slope.
The total vineyard is 75 hectares

Chateau Brane-Cantenac is planted to 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot, 4.5% Cabernet Franc and 0.5% Carmenere.

This high point is as good as any spot to consider and contemplate the destiny of the Margaux Second Growth. No doubt proprietor Henri Lurton would have thought about that many a time. After all, on his maternal side, Lurton is related to the French Renaissance philosopher Michel de Montaigne (1533 – 92).

Having conducted tastings with Lurton in China and Singapore, Henri also impresses with the effort he takes to precisely and honestly presents his views of his wines and the different vintages.

Unassuming, humble and always searching for the exact words to convey his innermost thoughts, Henri Lurton took over Chateau Brane-Cantenac in 1992 when his father Lucien (who had inherited it from his own father in 1956) famously took a whole year to divide and apportion his 10 wine estates among his 10 children.

It must have been an exercise in mental acrobatics to calculate the relative worth of the 10 classified growths and crus bourgeois. And to come to as fair a solution as possible.

In the end, it seemed that where a great chateau was involved, it was shared between a few children and other more humble properties were bundled together and given to individual offsprings.

Gonzague and Berenice Lurton of Durfort-Vivens and Climens respectively are, for example, siblings of Henri Lurton. (Pierre Lurton, in overall charge of Yquem and Chateau Cheval Blanc, is a cousin).

Brane-Cantenac was founded in the 18th century by the Gorce family who gave it its original name of Chateau Gorce.

Highly regarded and highly priced, Brane was named a Second Growth in the 1855 Classification of the Médoc. At this time, it was known as Chateau Brane, Baron Hector de Branne* having acquired the estate in 1833.

*The chateau itself only has one “n” in its spelling

Known famously as the “Napoleon of the Vines” the baron was also proprietor of Mouton. Indeed, when classified (also as a Second Growth in 1855), the Pauillac estate was called Chateau Brane-Mouton. Brane-Cantenac’s second wine, Baron de Brane, is named for this personage.

Like his father Lucien, Henri Lurton is very mindful that a great wine begins its life in the vineyard.

Presently, more than 20 hectares of the vineyard is farmed organically and, increasingly also, biodynamically. The lower yield is compensated for by higher quality.

There is another motivation which Lurton explains accordingly.

‘We conform to integrated and sustainable viticulture requirements so that we can continue to produce excellent wines for generations to come.’

Henri Lurton’s sense of social responsibility is not just confined to the immediate village of Cantenac or the region of Bordeaux. The Frenchman is mindful of the stakes involved for the world at large.

Lurton travels to the four corners of the globe where he interacts with wine lovers and others beyond the grape. Always outward-looking, he made wine in South Africa, Australia and Chile before assuming the helm at Brane-Cantenac.

It speaks volumes for the Frenchman that on 28 June 2010 – co-organised with myself – Henri Lurton offered up Brane-Cantenac as a venue for a tasting of 18 Gimblett Gravels red Bordeaux blends from five New Zealand wineries and hosted a luncheon for the Bordelais friends who came for the tasting including Eric Boissenot, Jean-Claude Berrouet, Jane Anson, Lilian Barton Sartorius, Nathalie Schyler, Marie-Laure Lurton, Thomas Duroux and Philippe Blanc.

Two years earlier, he did something similar when he welcomed Californian vintners to conduct a tasting of 12 California Cabernets at Brane-Cantenac.

Henri Lurton is as open-minded as his wines are exceptional.

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