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Blend: 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot, 6% Cabernet Franc
The fruit has become the main attraction here—layers of ripeness, tempered with an elegant smoothness. The tannins are certainly present in this powerful wine, but they are here to lend support, not dominate. With herbs and very clean black fruits, this is a wine to follow.
Tasted at the Brane-Cantenac vertical at the château, the 2005 Brane-Cantenac is a blend of 51% Cabernet Sauvignon, 43% Merlot and 6% Cabernet Franc. It has a focused, conservative (for the vintage) nose with gravel-tinged red berry fruit intermingling with cedar, graphite and pine needle scents. The palate is medium-bodied with a firm structure and unlike the bottle tasted in January, which I declined to score, there is no green streak on the finish. It is very backward and some might describe it as curmudgeonly. Personally I would not touch it for another five years, even though apparently it is beginning to open according to Henri Lurton. No, I would afford it another two or three years in bottle and let's see where we are then. Tasted April 2015.
Shows mineral and blackberry aromas, with hints of licorice. Full-bodied, with soft, silky tannins and a long, smoky, earthy, meaty and fruity aftertaste. Long and stylish. Very refined and beautiful. Best after 2012. 15,000 cases made.
Lucien Lurton's grandfather acquired the estate in 1925, and was succeeded by his grandson in 1956. Lucien Lurton's son, Henri, currently manages the estate and puts all his efforts into producing a great Margaux in each and every vintage, reflecting Brane-Cantenac's superb vineyard soil.
A source of Sonoma Cabernet Sauvignon that can rival its Napa Valley neighbors, the Alexander Valley is the hottest AVA in the county. This large and heavily planted appellation is only 25 miles from the coast, but it is relatively free of fog due to the sheltering effects of the mountain ranges in between. However, the Russian River, which runs through the valley, creates cool-climate pockets and soft, alluvial soil ideal for grape-growing.
In addition to Cabernet Sauvignon, which makes up over 50% of plantings, Merlot and other Bordeaux varieties as well as Zinfandel thrive here, all of which take on a bold and voluptuous personality. Ample, fleshy Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc dominate white wine production. Some old-vine plantings of Grenache have been discovered here, and more recent experiments with Sangiovese and Barbera show great promise.
A noble variety bestowed with both power and concentration, Cabernet Sauvignon is sometimes referred to as the “king” of red grapes. It can be somewhat unapproachable early in its youth but has the potential to age beautifully, with the ability to last fifty years or more at its best. Small berries and tough skins provide its trademark firm tannic grip, while high acidity helps to keep the wine fresh for decades. Cabernet Sauvignon flourishes in temperate climates like Bordeaux's Medoc region (and in St-Emillion and Pomerol, where it plays a supporting role to Merlot). The top Médoc producers use Cabernet Sauvignon for their wine’s backbone, blending it with Merlot and smaller amounts of Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and/or Petit Verdot. On its own, Cabernet Sauvignon has enjoyed great success throughout the world, particularly in the Napa Valley, and is responsible for some of the world’s most prestigious and sought-after “cult” wines.
In the Glass
High in color, tannin, and extract, Cabernet Sauvignon expresses notes of blackberry, cassis, plum, currant, spice, and tobacco. In Bordeaux and elsewhere in the Old World you'll find the more earthy, tannic side of Cabernet, where it's typically blended to soften tannins and add complexity. In warmer regions like California and Australia, you can typically expect more ripe fruit flavors upfront.
Cabernet Sauvignon is right at home with rich, intense meat dishes—beef, lamb, and venison, in particular—where its opulent fruit and decisive tannins make an equal match to the dense protein of the meat. With a mature Cabernet, opt for tender, slow-cooked meat dishes.
Despite the modern importance and ubiquity of Cabernet Sauvignon, it is actually a relatively young variety. In 1997, DNA revealed the grape to be a spontaneous crossing of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc which took place in 17th century southwestern France.