The Brane-Cantenac site has been producing wine since the 17th century. Initially named Domaine Guilhem H. Hostein, the property was bought by the Gorce family in the 18th century, changing the name of the property to Chateau Gorce-Guy.
This 32 hectare single site has soil dominated by "Terrace 4 soils". This term refers to a soil structure that was formed in an ancient geological era, made up of the ideal combination of clay and gravel for even ripening of Bordeaux varietals. The gravel in the soil goes down a staggering six to eight metres.
The Terrace 4 soil exists in parcels right through the Médoc and unsurprisingly exists where almost all of the top Châteaux on the Left Bank have the majority of their vineyards. It starts at the Cantenac plateau across to Brane-Cantenac, Margaux and then appears again in Saint-Julien around the vineyards of Léoville-Las Cases through to Pauillac, Pichon, Latour, Lafite, Mouton Rothschild all the way to Cos d’Estournel in Saint-Estèphe. This terroir plays the biggest role in determining the quality of grapes. The combination of clay and gravel in this site not only produces the most even ripening of the grapes compared with neighbouring Terrace 3 and 5 soils, it also provides the greatest quality of tannins, finer in texture than Terrace 3, for example, in which maceration needs to be carefully managed and can easily be over extracted producing harsh tannic wines. Anyone who has lots of Terrace 4 soil, at least has the potential to produce some of Bordeaux’s finest Cabernet Sauvignon. Another key factor that Brane-Cantenac has taken very seriously is replanting. Feeling the effects of global warming in Bordeaux the team at Brane-Cantenac are concerned about the acidity levels being too low and alcohol levels being too high for growing Merlot in the region. Its susceptibility to mildew in more humid conditions is also an issue.
Warmer damper seasons in Bordeaux (brought about by global warming) have seen the quality and quantity of Merlot dropping. They have therefore been re-grafting a lot of old Merlot vines with Cabernet Sauvignon, and upping the percentage of Cabernet in their Grand Vin compared to other Margaux estates.
They are also growing more Carmenere, Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc – varietals that benefit from the warmer temperatures brought about by global warming. The vineyard is dominated by Cabernet Sauvignon (representing around 70%), with Merlot making up most of the remainder, along with small plots of Cabernet Franc and Carmenere.
With plot by plot vinification now standard in top Bordeaux chateaux, Brane-Cantenac have mirrored this attention to detail in the vineyard with the same principles in the winery.
Each barrel of wine is evaluated separately and depending on how it tastes, it will receive different treatment. They use R'Pulse for gentle extraction, and the Grand Vin is aged in 100% new oak. For Baron de Brane, they have started using a small proportion of amphora, to amplify the fruit, roundness and supple texture.
The Brane-Cantenac vision in the winery is to look at every vintage differently. Rather than following a set formula each year they wait for the grapes to tell them what to do in the winery, particularly with Cabernet Sauvignon. Depending on the vintage and the specific plot, each one has a very different personality and requires a different approach when it comes to élevage. In the last decade the quality at Château Brane-Cantenac has taken another sharp upswing. Even in a mixed vintage like 2014, Brane-Cantenac produced a beautiful wine.