Father and son now at Branaire Ducru

By Panos Kakaviatos for wine-chronicles.com

9 November 2015

As I had earlier this year reported for Le Pan, among recent changes in Bordeaux, Francois Xavier Maroteaux recently moved to this fine Saint Julien château with his wife and children to assist father Patrick Maroteaux, who since 1988 has brought great splendor to the wines of this estate, as evidenced for one example in a picture filled article I had published in France On Your Own, way back in 2004 – with a review of wines from 1989 to 2003.

Patrick and Francois Xavier

Patrick and Francois Xavier Maroteaux

When I look to the Medoc, the appellation of Saint Julien often reflects a happy mix of the power of the north that one gets in Pauillac and Saint Estephe and the softer expressions of elegance from Margaux to the south. A sweeping cliche to be sure, but – like many cliches – there is truthful origin.

One reason why I really like Château Branaire Ducru is that it has never gone too nuts in terms of price, even in super duper vintages like 2010 or 2005. “Of course we are not Leoville Las Cases,” I remember Patrick Maroteaux saying. “But we try to be the best that we can.” And the best at Branaire Ducru is pretty darn good, as illustrated in a series of wines I tasted at the estate in mid September this year: when in bold, I liked in particular; when red and bold, even more – and when underlined, too, a kind of wine nirvana.


Challenging trio

Tasting the 2013 proved how dependable Branaire Ducru has been in the Maroteaux era. The wine exhibited red fruit, made from less than 32 hectoliters per hectare, and counts among the more dense 2013s, even if it still qualifies as … luncheon claret.

The 2012 however exhibited more dark fruit on the nose and fine richness and even a touch of floral: suave with notions of fine chocolate, yet tannic on finish. It was interesting to compare it with the 2011, which came across as more structured and tannic. I suspect, as do both father and son Maroteaux, that the 2011 will outlast the 2012.


Lunching at Branaire Ducru

Vertical and lunch 

Over lunch we enjoyed a series of wines blind, including the superb 2010, which displays blackberry liqueur and cool blue fruit, the palate at once broad and elegant. At this stage, the wine can be enjoyed as still rather primary in its deliciousness, but it could close down fairly soon. It has a very long life ahead. The famous Medoc based consultant Jacques Boissenot, who died last year, at the time said that the 2010 was his best vintage ever in some 30 years of wine consulting.

Next came the 2009, which displayed a more jammy style of blackberry richness, thoroughly seductive and perhaps not quite as cool and “serious” as the 2010, but irresistible. Branaire Ducru took part for the first time in Wine Spectator’s Fine Wine Experience in New York this year, and the Maroteaux chose the 2009 for that event. From what I heard, it was a great success.

I have always liked the 2008 but it was more reserved than ever for this lunch, more mineral, yet with subtle and pleasing floral hints and cassis on the palate, ending with fine salinity on the finish. I would say that it is closed down and that a few years of cellaring are needed for it to enter a better drinking window.


Decanted and ready to go

More ready for current drinking proved the 2006, exhibiting fresh tobacco leaf and then a palate of fine texture and plenty of juiciness. Patrick says that the 2011 will evolve like the 2006.

We ended with a trick. I was expecting a 2003, and they served the 2004, and I was a bit stumped because the expected structure was indeed matched by quite a full body, for the 2004. At one point I wrongly guessed 1996, as the color seemed more evolved, but it was delicious – and reinforced a favorable experience I had with it last year at a “Ten Years On” tasting in London.

If you plan to visit Saint Julien, Branaire Ducru is a must!

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