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Château Cantenac Brown is owned by Simon Halabi, the Syrian-born British multi-millionaire, who purchased the Margaux estate from the AXA insurance group in 2006. AXA had been behind the renaissance of the Château since 1989 – the wine was much improved from the chunky, uninspired offerings the estate churned out in the 1970s and 1980s. Their 1978 was one of the first bottles of wine I purchased in 1982 and it never made much more than a dry, dusty, tannic wine. Though generally considered not to have the very best vineyard sites in the appellation, the wines are nevertheless big and muscular, a style evidently accentuated by the philosophy. Robert Parker is a big fan of recent vintages. I’ve found them a little too extracted and muscular for me. Still there looks to be a search for less forced, more lush style with the 2014 and 2015 vintages
Vineyard: 42 hectares planted on gravelly soil, with 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot and 5% Cabernet Franc. Average age 35 years, and 8500-10000 vines per hectare, double Guyot. Yield average 45 hl/ha. De-leafing and green harvesting [vendange vert] and harvest by hand with selection in vineyard and at the winery.
Winemaking/Elévage: Vinification in temperature controlled stainless steel vats with 15-20 day maceration. Malolactic fermentation in both barrels and vats. Wine aged in oajk fo 12-15 months, 50% new, 50% one year. Racking every three months, fining with egg whites. 11000 cases of Grand Vin produced.
- 2015 Deep and saturated look; purple at edge; tight to rim; redcurrants and black fruits; pretty and voluptuous on the nose; nice entry on the palate; more creamy and round than usual; black cherry notes; harmony here this year. The first vintage at Cantenac Brown that is genuinely appealing at this stage. Evidence that they are stepping off the gas here in extraction terms. One to consider this year – depending on price. [61% Cabernet Sauvignon, 39% Merlot, 60% new oak, 13.8% alc]. Drink 2020-2030. 91-93+
- 2014 Deep and saturated colour; tight to the rim; some purple; nice creamy blackcurrant fruit; nicely handled [they have finally stepped off the gas here]; polished; glossy wine with depth; nice entry to the palate; softer and more caressing than expected; creamy blackcurrant fruit; some tannin but nicely proportioned; extract but ripe tannins and finally not over extracted. Good stuff. 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot 13.2% alc, 60% new oak. Drink 2010-2030. Tasted 31 March, 2015 at UGC. 90-92+
- 2013 Deep colour; more extracted looking; resin on the nose with almost Italianate notes; little monolithic on the nose; wet concrete tones; very extracted style on the palate; quite tight with lots of acidity and grip which alongside the tannins makes for a currently very dry and puckering experience. Way too extractive of the delicate fruit to my palate. See how it goes down the line. Drink 2018-2025. Tasted UGCB April 2014. 83-85
- 2012 Deeply coloured; some concentration to the aromas; spicy; full palate; softer than usual and rounder; full and easy style; this is the most enjoyable Cantenac Brown I’ve had in years. Not pushed. Tasty. Some chew on the finish but settled. Drink 2015-2025. 89+ UGC Oct ’14 [Earlier note] Deep and saturated colour; tight to the edge; chalky, mineral nose; wet rocks; some plushness; slightly green streak somewhere; a plusher and lusher sample than before; not as tannic as before but green streak. Inconsistent notes. 86-88? Tasted Thursday April 11, 2013. [Earlier note] Deep and very extracted looking; lots of oak [someone remarked it smells like a white wine]; quite sublimated in feel; very thick and extractive palate – wow – Merlot 60% new oak – loads of tannin; feels very recipe wine making for me. Very dry and astringent on the finish. May settle but will always be chunky and lacking finesse. 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot. 86-88. Tasted UGC Tuesday April 9, 2013. Drink 2020-2030
- 2011 Mid depth; little dumb and closed; some leaf and spice; warmth on the palate with chewy fruit; bit short on the finish. Tannic at the very end and a bit dry. Closed and rather sullen at present. Drink 2016-2026. 86? UGC Oct ’13 [Earlier note] Deep and saturated look; ripe and lifted red fruit quite sexy with satin feel – showy; palate stoney, mineral notes but also ferocious wood tannin and dry feel to the palate. Very oaked and dry palate. Disjointed currently. Chewy and extracted but there is the fruit. See if it settles. 86-88? Drink 2018-2025. Tasted UGC Apr ’12.
- 2010 Deeply coloured; dark core; some red fruits, dust and black fruit tones; liqourice; still dumber than Brane-Cantenac [and very differently styled]; solid feel to the palate; firm and structured wine; quite chewy fruit and tannin; feels extracted [though less so than formerly, so settling to a degree]. Masculine style of Margaux. Drink 2017-2035. 89 MW Institute Nov ’14 [Earlier note] Deep and saturated look; thick black fruits with some liqourice; very ripe fruit, some marzipan and lift; some coffee; quite chewy, dense with lots of structured and grip. Big wine. Muscular and worked. Will have its followers – not me. 87/100 UGC Oct ’12 [Earlier] Deep and saturated; fragrant and attractive, violets; quite plush, feels like fine Margaux; perfumed; palate attractive with some blackcurrants, violet notes again with some rosehip; some grip here but nicely done. Elegant and intense. Much better than 2009. Excellent 91-93+ Tasted 5 April 2011 [Second tasting] Deep and intense; more concentration and intensity on the nose than Brane; riper and full; some violest; good density on the palate, quite unctuous and worked palate; quite thick palate with chew and extraction. [66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Merlot 13.6 alc] 90-92+/100 Tasted 7 April 2011 UGC Drink 2018-2030
- 2009 Deep red; some cream, fresh, little dumb on the palate and feels closed; nevertheless dense and chewy; tannic and a bit overdone possibly. Feels chewy and extracted at present. Hmmm. 88?/100 MW Institute Nov ’13 [Earlier] Deep inky; more rasiny and ripe fruit nose; less seductive than Brane; bigger and intense; less sophisticated nose; oak; intense though; palate intense; layered; good intense wine on palate; tannins supple but there is concentration and extraction. Very good intense style, maybe a bit rasiny and not feminine but intense and very ripe. Tannins fine. 90+/100 UGC Oct ’11 [Second tasting] Deep, darker more extracted look; BLACK – bit of over-ripeness to the nose; slightly raisin-y note; very ripe palate, some hefty tannins at the back and signs of over-extraction. Lacks the freshness of the best wines. Quite chewy and tannic. Big, but not sophisticated. 88-90/100 Tasted 30th March & 1st April 2010. drink 2015-2025+
- 2008 Dense; very ripe nose, strawberries and jam quite fresh and lifted; quite a tough, tannic palate with lots of chewy fruit and tannin; extracted style; tannins at bit furry at the end. Solid and dense if tannic. Bit tough. 86/100 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 40% Merlot Drink 2015-2025 UGC Oct ’10
- 2007 Deepish, dark at core, saturated looking; earthy, peaty nose with smoke and some sweet oak and stalky blackcurrants too; ripe red fruits on the palate along with chewy blackcurrant fruit, stalks and lots of grip; still pretty angular and grippy with acid but the flesh is there at present. 87/100 MW Institute [Earlier]Mid red; more leaf and blackcurrant; some cream; slightly leafy, weedy flavours; quite tannic and lacks flesh. 82/100 UGCB Oct ‘09 Drink now – 2020