New dry white from the Médoc meets increasing demand

Brane Cantenac Blanc 2019

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

2 February 2021

The label contrasts royal blue and white, evoking perhaps the Mediterranean Sea.

But this is no Greek dry white, but another from the Médoc, known for its great red wines. Made from vines on 3.2 hectares on siliceous, clay soils, this maiden 2019 vintage of Brane Cantenac Blanc blends 72% Sauvignon Blanc 28% Semillon.

Owner Henri Lurton, of the excellent second growth in Margaux, Château Brane Cantenac, decided to introduce this dry white wine no doubt out of his passion for winemaking, and he thus joins a growing number of white wine producers from the Médoc.

Production is not going to be substantial and yet market demand is growing for dry white wine. As this recent market report summarizes, “the global dry white wine market is anticipated to rise at a considerable rate during the forecast period, between 2021 and 2026.” Indeed, this year the report indicates dry white wines sales already “growing at a steady rate”.

So it makes sense for Bordeaux appellations like Sauternes to produce more dry whites (given lower demand for the “sweet wines”). An increasing number of red wine producers in Bordeaux are following suit, which seems less clear. Indeed, I do not recall tasting as many dry white wines from the Médoc as I did late last year to assess the 2018 vintage of dry white wines from Bordeaux, tasting notes here.

Harvested fairly early in this maiden vintage to retain freshness, the Brane Cantenac Blanc (appellation Bordeaux AOC) exhibits a steely aspect but also fine freshness. There is citrus, some exotic fruit and subtle notes that integrate the 25% new oak quite nicely. The wine was aged for eight months on lees in 225- and 500-liter French oak barrels.

However, I wonder about the €58 (retail) price tag, as one can find comparable quality for less.

Chalk it up to the prestige of the estate as a selling point?

The wine clocks in at 13.5% alcohol, with 4.71 grams of acidity per liter and with pH 3.09. More information about the wine here.



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Bordeaux 2018: Where does reality in bottle meet hype from barrel?

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

24 January 2021

From barrel, I had characterized 2018 Bordeaux as a vintage for “Hedonists and Intellectuals”. Over the course of the last few months, including several visits to Bordeaux during official lockdowns in France, I tasted 2018s on location, after recent bottling. Some bottles had been sent to me to Strasbourg, but it was great to go on location and taste when I could.

Then again, the advantage to having bottles delivered is that you can spend more time with each wine… I may request that for 2020.

My intro to the vintage as published in last month – here the link – posed the question whether the reality in bottle meets the hype from barrel, and to some extent it does.

Thanks for reading that text before you go to my tasting notes. Suffice to say, the term “great” often has been used to describe each new dry and hot vintage in Bordeaux, but – as ever – the devil is in the details.

Based on my tastings, many wines from the less-hyped 2019 vintage should surpass the 2018 vintage for lovers of cooler balances, even if alcohol levels are not so different. 2018 may win in terms of density, but 2019 seems to convey more subtlety, overall. Certainly 2016 is the vintage par excellence for lovers of cooler balances, of which I count myself.

How will 2016, 2018 and 2019 compare down the road?

Having said that, 2018 has many a gorgeous gem and some excellent wines with excellent price/quality ratios (although 2019 may prove the most interesting in terms of pricing), and I have purchased some 2018 vintage wines as a result, including, for higher end purchasing, Château Canon, Château Cheval Blanc, Château Larcis Ducasse and Château Léoville Las Cases. Read More

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Right Bank Satellites 2018

Mostly Castillon: some excellent, affordable wines

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

24 January 2021

Many less heralded appellations from the Right Bank with cooler clay and/or limestone soils excelled in 2018. But I did not get to too many of them. We can start with Montagne Saint Emilion and Jean-Claude Berrouet, whose name resonates in the wine world as one of its greats, thanks in large part to his many years crafting Petrus in Pomerol. In Montagne Saint Emilion, owns Château Vieux Château Saint-André, which he had purchased in 1979 as well as Château Samion (Lalande de Pomerol), in 1982. His son Jeff took over in 2002, and I have visited several times, always impressed by the freshness and refinement of both wines, which never fell prey to the exaggerated modern era on the Right Bank. Old Merlot vines, 40 years old in Montagne and 50 years old in Lalande de Pomerol, match with excellent clay soils. Vinifications preserve fruit freshness, and tannins are carefully extracted without excess, before the wine ages twelve months. In 2019, the Berrouets acquired two new estates: Château Bonneau, 6 hectares in Montagne-Saint-Émilion and Château Hyon La Fleur, 2.5 hectares in Saint-Christophe-des-Barde (Saint-Émilion).

Jeff and Jean-Claude Berrouet at Vieux Château Saint André

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Sauternes and Barsac 2018

Saved by the October (Botrytis) Bell  

By Panos Kakaviatos for

24 January 2021

Readers may recall that a hailstorm reduced yields for some estates to near nothing, if not nothing. Château Guiraud for example had announced that it would only make dry white wine in 2018, because of the devastating hail.

As for the growing season, the botrytis only showed up very late. Following some passerillage (raisining) in September, October rains “just saved” the vintage, as Jean-Pierre Meslier of Château Raymond Lafon said. In any case, the same problem that that affects dry whites in 2018 applies to some late harvest “stickies”, as well: not enough acidity. But several estates proved their savvy – and I am not sure how – by making well balanced, spicy and exciting wines.

Mask on: Jean-Jacques Dubourdieu of Château Doisy-Daëne at the blind tasting of whites from Sauternes and Barsac

Before getting to Château d’Yquem, where I enjoyed lunch with Jane Anson and Yohan Castaing, we tasted other classified growths blind at Château Doisy Daëne in Barsac, in a cozy tasting room. Jean-Jacques Dubourdieu poured many wines for us, on behalf of fellow producers. As with other producers, October rains brought the bulk of the botrytis. “We had fear because of the real lack of botrytis” Finally by October, rains brought it. “Yes some passerillage” and “very doré”, he said. “The grapes were very healthy, so sorting was less essential”. Some estates, such as Château Climens and Château de Fargues produced little or no wine because of the hail. These were tasted blind, so the notes are more or less spontaneous. It would be useful to taste again and over a longer period of time, but first impressions count!  Read More

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Pomerol 2018

Some stellar, some not as much 

By Panos Kakaviatos for 

24 January 2021

Some very good to great wines, but in some cases, I could not help but detect the ether of the vintage in some. Top wines – from Trotanoy and Pétrus, to Petit Village and Gazin – have deep clays that kept things fresh. One finds seductive tannins with much impressive density. Others seem powerful, which is a very good sign for aging. The density of the best Pomerols is superior to densities from 2016 or 2019. For example that of Petit Village is a good example of a very successful 2018 Pomerol. I tasted the wines of Moueix with Jane Anson in Bordeaux, and others – including Pétrus, Vieux Château Certan, Evangile and La Conseillante, at the estates. At La Conseillante, Jane Anson and I tasted the estates that make up the group Pomerol Seduction. And I tasted Petit Village (and again Beauregard) at home while discussing the vintage via ZOOM. Alas, I did not get a chance to re-taste Lafleur or Eglise Clinet. Tasting notes in alphabetical order.

Château Beauregard – The rear view from this estate, in featured image here, proves its name. Although with some sandy, hot gravel soils, the estate crafted excellent wine in 2018. The cooler clays helped as did the fine Cabernet Franc, making up 30% of the blend. And I have the feeling that general manager Vincent Priou – who calls 2018 the best vintage ever at this estate – and his team had a Midas Touch. Indeed the density and tannic edge and power impress. The wine maintains a certain “imposing aspect” that I got from barrel, but in a good way without austerity or drying tannins. And there is lovely mid palate juiciness and cool wintergreen mint aromatic aspects. Aged in 50% new oak, the wine clocks in at 14.05% alcohol, although the label indicates 14.5, no doubt for US tax authorities. 94+ Read More

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