While many top châteaux in the Haut-Médoc have fallen into the hands of banks or insurance companies, Ch. Branaire-Ducru has maintained its independence. The owning Maroteau family lives here, with daily involvement in all aspects. The winery was totally re-built in 1991, pioneering gravity-fed wine-making in the Médoc. The advantage of this is that grapes are not squashed at the de-stemming stage, but gently handled, to retain their integrity. It is not mechanical pumping which starts extractions of colour, aromas and flavours, but the guiding hand of the wine-maker, after careful tasting of skins and juice.
In 2016, the blend here is 64% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 6% Petit Verdot and 4% Cabernet Franc. 60% of the barrels are new, the balance being one year old. Wine-maker Jean-Dominique Videau (in place since 2002) comments, as we taste: “Our harvest lasted from 29th September until 19th October – the longest ever here. All the grape varieties were marvellous, and the Petits Verdots very fine, very elegant.” Colour of this 2016 is deep purple, all the way to the rim. Aromas are elegant, rich and bright. Palate is full-bodied, with sumptuous, plump fruitiness, well integrated acidity and rich, gentle tannins. Tasted four times, this consistently showed itself to be absolutely magnificent. It is a superbly harmonious, great wine (for drinking 2020-2040+).
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