Surprisingly late this year, Château Brane-Cantenac has released pricing for the 2011 vintage and it is about 45% less than 2010. Our good friends at JJ Buckley have the wine at $46.99 per 750ml bottle.
As with the rest of Bordeaux, 2011 was a difficult vintage for Brane. Each bunch of grapes at harvest had grapes that were overripe and underripe. Optical sorting was critical to the 2011 harvest at Brane it helped weed out the bad grapes, which made up about 5-10% of the harvest.
In 2011 Brane also introduced Carmenère into the blend. In the 1800s Carmenère was a staple of Bordeaux blends, it has since fallen in popularity to less than 1% of all plantings across Bordeaux. But, Carmenère thrives in hot dry weather, which is why I has done well in Chile. As climate change begins to impact the grape crop in Bordeaux Chateaux will need to adapt to the weather changes. Introducing Carmenère into the blend is one way for Brane to adapt.
While the Carmenère was planted in 2007 this was the first harvest and the viticultural team at Brane took extra care with the grapes. The Carmenère was harvested 3 weeks after the other grapes and was done by the winery team. The grapes were then vinified in small oak barrels, separate from the other grapes. It was only included in the blend after tasting.
The 2011 vintage is a blend of 56.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 37% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc and .5% Carmenère. So, how is it? The wine has great aromas of violet and roses. It is complex, both in aroma and taste, with flavors of blackberry and tobacco and a rustic zing that signals the Carmenère making itself known. Another, and frankly surprisingly, excellent vintage from Henri Lurton and team.
I am not alone in my assessment of this wine. Robert Parker, who was notoriously stingy with his grades for the 2011 vintage, read this wine a 90-93 and had this to say:
Made in a sexy, perfumed style, this 2011 seduces the taster with its wonderful aromatics of blue, red and black fruits, flowers, damp earth and forest floor. With excellent to outstanding concentration, fresh acidity and velvety tannins, this plush Margaux is atypically opulent/flamboyant for the vintage. Drink it over the next 12-15 years.