2001 Chateau Branaire (Duluc Ducru), Saint-Julien, Grand Cru Classé, Red Bordeaux, France.
One of my favorite Bordeaux vintages to drink, 2001, and an en 1855 classified Chateau that always offers a solid value, Chateau Branaire Ducru made for a near perfect wine and food experience while celebrating Napa Valley Food Week at the fabulous Lovina Restaurant in Calistoga. The Branaire’s perfect cellaring showed here, the cork was like brand new and came out easily and the color was just as a 20 plus year old Bordeaux should be with a deep purple/garnet core and burgundy edges leading to a seductive silky mature palate. The aromatics lifted heavenly from the glass with peony, loam, currant, cedar and dusty kirsch and echoed on and on in mouth with blackberry, plum, tobacco leaf, minty anise and a hint of savory sous bois. The tannins are still sweet, but dry and add a nice tartness holding the fruit in place and make this wine lovely with food, especially hard cheeses, meat dishes and or wild mushrooms. The length here was quite impressive and lingered with a refined delicacy that you might expect from a more pricy Chateau and this Branaire stayed extremely poised for the whole evening, not letting the foot of the gas even for a moment over the couple hours it was open.

The historic Château Branaire Ducru, located in the Medoc’s Saint-Julien region, is one of the ten classified fourth growths from the Bordeaux Wine Official Classification of 1855. Branaire Ducru, which dates back to 1680, was a originally part of the huge Beychevelle estate and was sold off because of big debts owed with Jean-Baptiste Braneyre giving this place the name. Braneyre bought the land because he was convinced the outer Medoc with its gravelly soils was prime Cabernet Sauvignon terroir, which proved to be the case and the Grand Vin of Branaire is Cab dominated blend with the vineyard planted to 65% Cabernet-Sauvignon, 28% Merlot, 4% Petit Verdot, and 3% Cabernet Franc. Today, it is pretty much the same as it has been since the 1855 classification and best part of the property is very close to the Gironde River with the gravel over clay soils, bringing out a deep sense of fruit coming through in the wines. The Branaire Ducru sees fermentation in temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks, with different sized vats used for each parcel and everything is fed by gravity flow and after primary fermentation the wine is racked in French oak barrels for between 16-20 months, about which are 60 to 65% new. Sandwiched between the 2000 and 2003, the supple and generous 2001 continues to over perform in drinking grace and elegance, I couldn’t be happier with the way it is showing, wish only I had a few more bottles to enjoy over the next 3 to 5 years.
($65 to 80 Est.) 93 Points, grapelive

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