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Château Brane-Cantenac 2005

Château Brane-Cantenac 2005

Although at the time of writing I am still recovering from my recent hard drive failure – fortunately for me this site was thoroughly backed up – this minor disaster has done nothing to dampen my enthusiasm for the Bordeaux 2005 vintage, on which I have extensive tasting notes following my opening review of the vintage. Beyond tasting the wines in Bordeaux, or at trade events in the UK, I have had little experience. That is to say, I haven’t had much of a chance to taste and drink an example at a more leisurely pace. Perhaps the only example is the 2005 Château Brown Blanc, which was very good indeed.

What a pleasure, then, to find myself in receipt of this bottle of Brane-Cantenac from the 2005 vintage. It came not from the Lurton family direct, but rather via Andy Butt, current treasurer of the Cambridge University Wine Society. A tasting sample (or echantillon) intended for a Brane-Cantenac event in May earlier this year, it is thus representative of the final wine rather than an exact match. It was drawn off and bottled in April, and thus came out of wood several months earlier than the Brane-Cantenac I sampled at the UGC tasting in October this year, and it has seen neither fining nor filtration. In this respect, it perhaps should not be used to judge the 2005 Brane-Cantenac? That is an interesting thought, but if one agrees, one should also note that the same applies to en primeur barrel samples, which are even further from the whole and finished wine. And yet, every year, notes on these embryonic wines send people all over the world scurrying for their credit cards.

Château Brane-Cantenac 2005As it happened the May tasting was delayed until later in the year, and eventually it became clear that this bottle wasn’t required; thus it soon found its way into my possession, and my thanks to Andy and the Cambridge University Wine Society for that. I must confess, after opening the package after delivery, the thought of simply tucking this away for consumption in the dim and distant future did briefly flit across my mind, but curiosity soon put this notion to bed. In addition, I felt I should open this and taste it now, in keeping with the spirit in which the wine was bottled and thereafter forwarded to me. Nevertheless, I was still a little anxious. Although my experience of tasting the wines so far has been very good, the wines showing wonderful fruit and depth as well as structure, I did wonder how much pleasure would come from drinking, as opposed to tasting. As it turns out, I need not have worried; this decision was a good one.

The wine was decanted for one hour and then consumed over the next few hours, before what little remained was kept back 24 hours for the next day – it held up well to this treatment. In the glass this wine has, unsurprisingly, a rather dense and certainly glossy hue. The nose is quite exotic, with notes of spices, pepper and sandalwood. With this there is a fine concentration of fruit, showing a more intense cassis and blackcurrant than the red fruits which seemed to dominate in October. Whatever the character of the fruit, there is plenty of it, and on the palate it is presented in a very pure, direct, detached style. It is a wine with plenty of substance, and although I can sense the ripe tannins, they are well covered by the fruit and body of the wine and, incredulously, I can drink this wine now with pleasure. It has a fabulous intensity of flavour, ripe and yet restrained, with no over-the-top texture or force. Nicely composed on the finish. On the next day almost no different – a little acetic note although this dissipated in minutes and the fun then continued. This is a really good vintage for fans of Brane-Cantenac. 17-17.5+/20

I scored this without reference to my earlier note, when I gave a score of 16.5-17+/20, so this tasting comes in at the top of that range and extends above it. The fruit profile seems different to me with this particular bottle, but the structure and substance of the wine seems very familiar. With a little wild extrapolation, I think this experience bodes very well indeed for the vintage as a whole. Accepting that this is representative rather than being the real Brane-Cantenac, I think it shows how tasting at home allows for more reflection and analysis, giving the wine more opportunity to shine. If I were to bump up all my scores from the UGC tasting by half a point, this makes 2005 Bordeaux an even safer buy than it already is! (10/12/07)

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