Brane Cantenac’s vineyard is carefully tended all the year round : improvements to drainage, new plantings adapted to the plots , severe pruning and de-budding to limit the crop and hand harvesting. When Henri Lurton took over the estate from his father , in 1992, he put into practice all that he had learnt throughout his extensive training and experience acquired in vineyards all over the world. The wine of Brane is prepared in its vineyards. The family’s relationship with this land was founded by his great-grand-father, in 1922. It has continued through fine and less-than-fine vintages, through difficult or more favorable economic contexts. Such steadfast attachment has nothing to do with fashion.
Château Brane-Cantenac has built its legend around a vineyard of 75 hectares comprised of different plots. The biggest of these lies right in front of the château of the finest bench of large-sized gravel within the Margaux appellation. This area which rises above the surrounding land is called the plateau de Brane it’s as if the earth has swelled up with pride to show off its potential. The layers of stones, from the former river-bed of the Garonne, lie as deep as 10 meters there. These are unfertile soils which also have a warming influence, favoring the region’s preferred grape, the cabernet sauvignon. They make it work hard, sending its roots deep to find sustenance.
Vineyards are stamped with man’s will. They grow according to its design and will produce their best fruit for he who has trust in them. A great wine cannot exist without this exchange. The time it takes to understand one another can seem long. At Brane, the learning process began 250 years ago, with the odd period of silence in between. The Lurton family has continued the dialogue over the past four generations. Since 1992, Henri, Lucien’s son, holds the floor, continuing in his father’s footsteps. It is his turn to strive for that ideal balance between man and nature which, alone can obtain the best from a particular terroir.
From mid September onwards, things get busy in the vineyard. The château nestling behind the Brane plateau ceases to be a haven of peace. It’s time to harvest and 100 hands and arms come into play, to cut, sort and then carry the bunches to the cellars. Harvest is the culminating point of the year’s work. All year long, no effort has been spared to care for and nurture this land, producing reasonable yields of around 45 hectoliters per hectare. The order to harvest is only given after the grapes have been analyzed and, above all, tasted. When each plot has reached the required point of maturity, a group of pickers starts work. Harvest often finishes in October in the flurry of excitement that accompanies any birth.
The transformation of grapes into wine is a short, violent and turbulent process. Called fermentation, it transfigures and focuses the year’s work. It requires some very sophisticated equipment which will only be used for a few weeks every year. The grapes are brought in and carefully sorted, variety by variety, and plot by plot. Then comes crushing, fermentation, maceration, pressing and filling the barrels. Every stage requires the right tolls and impeccable hygiene.
Brane-Cantenac has a long history behind it which has forged its identity. But between the sometimes stifling weight of tradition and the temptation to make a clean sweep of the past, there is a middle ground to be trodden. Brane-Cantenac has kept what is relevant in traditional practice, adding selected elements from modern techniques. The aim being always to handle grapes and wine in the most gentle natural way possible. For example, Henri Lurton combines the advantages of traditional wooden vats with those of stainless steel and concrete ones. Their moderate size enables individual treatment of batches. Such combined techniques increase the options available at blending time.
Tranquilit after the storm. The cellar is a functional place with no frills; dark and cool, perfectly adapted to its purpose. The wine now requires peace and quiet, as well as surrounding fresh air and people to look after it. It rests, like a patient gaining in strength and refinement, preparing itself for the long haul of its future life in the bottle. In order to face a time-span that will, for many of these bottles, exceed 20 years, it has to gradually absorb oxygen through the barrel staves in the quiet darkness of the cellar. Life ticks along, peacefully and gently. Ageing has begun, and it is part of the oenologists’ job to judge its pace and read its language. At Brane-Cantenac, the type of barrel used is adapted to the vintage’s % nature (up to 70% new oak) and to the length of ageing required (around 18 months)