|Grower:|| Cantenac Brown|
|Size:|| BT (75cl)|
|Available:|| In bond|
|Drink:|| 2023 - 2063||
66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot
The greatest Cantenac Brown I have ever tasted, the 2010 is one for the ages. Dense purple, with an extraordinary nose of sweet forest floor, blackberry jam, pen ink and graphite, this wine soars from the glass, giving it an aromatic dimension and intensity I have never seen from this estate. The tannins are present, as they are in most Cantenac Browns, but the wine’s sweetness, broad, skyscraper-like mouthfeel, dense, purple color and spectacular length (close to a minute) make this a giant classic and a fabulous sleeper of the vintage that still remains under-priced, considering how great its potential may be. This is a wine for those with cold cellars and youthful DNA. It is going to need at least a decade of cellaring and should last for 20-40 years. A classic!
Robert Parker, Wine Advocate (205)
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66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% MerlotCabernet Sauvignon:
Despite being so prominent in the winemaking industry, the origins of this variety were shady up until the 1990s. Prior to this, many felt that the variety was ancient origin – perhaps even the Biturcia grape used to make ancient Roman wine. However, these romanticised and altogether dubious origins were placed on the shelf when DNA typing, undertaken by the UC David Department of Viticulture and Enology, determined that Cabernet Sauvignon was the offspring of Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc – most probably due to a chance crossing in the 17th century.
Cabernet Sauvignon can grow in various different climates and soil types – in fact the wine usually gives a sense of the terroir in the taste. Naturally prone to vigorous yields, winemakers must be careful not to compromise the quality of the wine. Practices such as using less vigorous rootstock, green harvesting and aggressive pruning of grape clusters ensure lower yields.
This variety is most famously found in Bordeaux blends and thrives on the gravelly soils of the Medoc, being both well drained whilst also radiating heat to the vines. However, internationally varietals are very common – especially in warmer climates.
Used for both blending and varietal wines, Merlot is the foremost grape in the Bordeaux. Merlot wines usually have a medium body with hints of berry, plum and currant. Its softness and fleshiness, combined with earlier ripening, makes Merlot a popular grape for blending with the sterner, later-ripening Cabernet Sauvignon, with its higher tannin levels. Its name comes from the Occitan word “merlot” which means “young blackbird” – a nod towards the grape’s beautiful dark-blue colour. An offspring of Cabernet Franc (and therefore a sibling of Cabernet Sauvignon), it was first mentioned in 1784 where a labelled wine made from the grape attracted praise from all quarters.
The grape can easily be identified by its loose bunches of large, plump grapes. The colour is less or a blue/black hue than Cabernet Sauvignon and it has a thinner skin, with correspondingly fewer tannins. Pruning has a massive impact on the outcome of the wine, with reduced yields giving higher quality wine. Merlot has a propensity to quickly over ripen after hitting its initial ripeness level, sometimes in a matter of a few days. The renowned Chateau Petrus favours early picking to ensure acidity and ageing potential, while other growers favour late picking and the added fruitiness that comes with the additional ripeness of the fruit.
Merlot is now the most commonly grown grape in France, which claims two thirds of the world’s total Merlot cultivation.
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The most southerly of Medoc’s appellations, Margaux’s terroir is in part defined by the presence of ‘white graves’ - a special type of gravel that deposits itself in the area having been carried down from the mountains by the Gironde. For the most part the soil consists of a plateau of gravel and silt with a layer of limestone with clay. The estuary provides cooling in the summer and staves of spring frosts.
The 1855 classification contained more wines from Margaux than any other appellation, with Chateau Maragux being one of only four wines to be awarded Premier Cru status.
Type of wine produced:
Medium to full-body red wine.
Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot
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One phrase which is being used increasingly to describe the 2010 vintage is ‘embarrassingly good.’ Given how 2009 was lauded to the heavens by the bordelaise as ‘the best ever’, it’s something of an awkward truth that – a mere twelve months later - we are faced once more with awe-inspiring quality. A due sense of cynicism is to be expected, but this mustn’t interfere with our appreciation of what is, quite objectively, a fabulous vintage.
Not that this came as a sudden surprise, as Bill Blatch (Bordeaux expert and negociant) notes: “Back in November, many owners were already quietly confident that their ’10 was better than the already legendary ’09 but, coming hot on the heels of the hallowed 2009s, they seemed embarrassed to say it too loudly. Today, half of Bordeaux is less timid in assessing ’10 as great as, if not greater than ’09.” He adds, “There is one point of total agreement: It is totally different from its predecessor.”
What we appear to have is more of a stylistic shift, while the quality has remained essentially static in its excellence. This quality isn’t reserved to the top tiers of Bordeaux producers, either. David Peppercorn MW observes that wines are attractive at all levels, from lesser properties all the way up to Grand Crus: “Those with lesser sites have made excellent wines.” He added that he would be quite happy to list many of them as everyday wines at the prestigious West End Garrick Club, where he sits on the wine committee.
These are not wines for the faint-hearted, and in their excellence they are uncompromising. The average alcohol level is 14.5 per cent, peaking at 15.5 per cent in some cases. In addition, pH values are very low, acidity is obviously very high, and the tannins are formidable (ensuring fantastic ageing potential.)
Overall, these are ripe, dense wines packed with sweet fruit notes such as raspberry, strawberry and black cherry. Some are so richly flavourful that they take on a delicious ‘pruney’ dimension. Ordinarily this would be overpowering, but the keen balancing acidity keeps everything in check.
There is also what we might call a ‘rustic’ edge to many of these reds, in contrast to the silky voluptuousness of the 2009s. This is due to a searing hit of green tannins, which will develop and imbue the wine with steadily greater structure and balance.
Cabernet Sauvignon and Franc were generally picked in near-perfect conditions during the gloriously dry conditions of mid-October. (Click here to close this window)