I can remember very little of the day, so long ago was it. It was one of my very first trips to Bordeaux, back when I had only been writing about wine for a few months. It was a press trip, a luxury I rarely allow myself these days. Half-asleep, lulled into the land of nod by the gentle swaying of the motor car as we wound our way along the D2 (I wasn’t driving, I should point out), I looked out over the vineyards through barely-open eyes. And there, across the vineyards, stood yet another château. But this one was different. Whereas most of the region’s châteaux are built using local stone, the hue ranging from an elegantly pale cream to a light honey-gold, this château was constructed of a red-brown brick, to a design – something I discovered later – by the architect Ernest Minvielle (1835 – 1914), renowned for his work in the region, not just here but at several other Bordeaux estates.
I had just, for the first time, set eyes upon Château Cantenac-Brown.
As I learnt about the wines of Bordeaux, I soon came to the conclusion that the wines of Château Cantenac-Brown could safely be ignored. That was true until the early 21st century, anyway, when the property came into the hands of Syrian-British businessman Simon Halibi. During his tenure the estate was lifted from the doldurms, and it grew to become one of the most interesting in the Margaux appellation, at least beyond the big names such as Château Margaux, Château Palmer and Château d’Issan. Although the estate has since changed hands once more, the wine of Château Cantenac-Brown remains one to which we should pay attention.
The origins of the estate are shared with Château Prieuré-Lichine and especially with Château Boyd-Cantenac, this latter estate and Château Cantenac-Brown being one and the same through to the mid-19th century. For this reason, much of the comprehensive history written below is shared between these three estates. To skip forward to the point at which Château Cantenac-Brown begins to emerge as an independent property, move ahead to the section entitled The Brown Division on page two of this profile.