Château Branaire-Ducru, 2021 Update
In an appellation which is naturally dominated by the three Léoville estates, by virtue of their illustrious histories, their great size and the high quality of the wines (at least one of them has been touted as pretender to first growth status for as long as I have been able to hold a wine glass), I have always enjoyed exploring the wines of the other classed growth estates in St Julien. And of course those properties outside the 1855 classification, most notably Château Gloria, although there are other interesting propositions in this commune, such as Château Finegrave and Domaine du Jaugaret. There are always gems here; it seems to me that St Julien is the most consistent of all the left-bank communes, and these ‘alternative’ names offer different interpretations of the appellation’s terroir and its capabilities rather than inherently lesser quality.
Among the classed growth contenders one of the most notable names is Château Branaire-Ducru. One of the first vintages I ever tasted here was a young 1989 and it was impressive enough, but there is no doubt that during the years that followed, under the direction of the late Patrick Maroteaux (1950 – 2017), quality improved. Highlights included the superb 2005 vintage, but also 2006, which when I tasted it just one year after my first encounter with the 2005 I thought to be of quite similar quality. Patrick oversaw a revitalisation of practices, cutting back on yields in the vineyards and introducing gravity-fed winemaking in newly constructed cellars. The results shone through in the best vintages, which are the usual suspects, namely 2009, 2010 and 2016. They all made worthy additions to the cellar, and there was no reason not to expect this fine run of good fortune and high quality to continue.