The 2021 Branaire Ducru was picked from September 24, albeit slowly, until October 14, at 32hL/ha. It has quite an intense, dare I say precocious bouquet of bold brambly red fruit that eventually settles in the glass and turns darker. The palate is medium-bodied with sappy black fruit and a touch of black pepper and tobacco. Quite a marine-influenced Saint-Julien, it fans out gradually toward the finish and exerts a gentle grip. Though not quite reaching the heights of recent vintages, it represents a true articulation of the growing season and of Branaire-Ducru itself.
Drink 2025 - 2050
Neal Martin, vinous.com, (May 2022)
The 2021 Branaire-Ducru is sleek, elegant and nuanced. There is more Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc in the blend than in the 2018-2020 period, when the Merlots were especially successful. As a result, the aromatics are absolutely alluring, but the wine is much less forthcoming on the palate. At 12.9% alcohol, the 2021 is a classically austere Branaire that looks like it will need quite a bit of time to blossom. It is undoubtedly a very pretty wine, even if not fully expressive at this stage. Dark cherry, plum, chocolate, leather and rose petal linger. Tasted three times.
Drink 2031 - 2061
Antonio Galloni, vinous.com (May 2022)
Well balanced, showcasing the possiblities of the vintage, a little austere in its rose stem and cassis bud character, but it opens up to show finessed blackberry fruit, precisely cut tannins, and has plenty of potential to age. 32hl/ yield, up to 20 month ageing depending on tasting. Tasted twice.
Drink 2026 - 2040
Jane Anson, janeanson.com (May 2022)
Having tasted the 2021 Branaire-Ducru six times over the course of a month and a half, I feel confident in saying that it is a beautiful wine that numbers among the vintage's real successes. Offering up aromas of raspberry coulis and red cherries mingled with notions of rose petals, cigar box and spices, it's medium to full-bodied, ample and seamless, with a layered core of fruit, lively acids and beautifully powdery tannins. Why is it quite so good? It isn't because a lot of wine was declassified, as around 60% of the estate's production went into the grand vin this year—a touch more than average. Rather, the key factors seem to be waiting to pick despite an alarming weather forecast; the blend itself, which emphasizes ripe Cabernet and the estate's later-ripening Merlot on clay-limestone soils; and the fact that a partially completed new winery means that Branaire already had fully 63 fermentation vats at its disposal to pick and vinify parcel by parcel. The exact composition is 66% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Merlot and the rest Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
William Kelley, Wine Advocate (Apr 2022)
A very pretty wine, showing blackberry and blackcurrant aromas with crushed stone. Medium to full body with layers of fine-grained tannins. Bright and refined. Lots of dark fruit at the end. Solid weight.
James Suckling, jamessuckling.com (May 2022)
About this WINE
Classified as a fourth growth in 1855, Ch. Branaire-Ducru makes pure and classic St Julien. The estate has recently passed from father to son: the widely respected Patrick Maroteaux – who had served at various times as president of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux and the St Julien appellation – sadly passed away in 2017. His son François-Xavier has picked up the baton and continues his father’s legacy. The Maroteaux family bought the property in 1988 and have invested considerably in the vineyard and winery since. Superstar consultant Eric Boissenot advises here, as he does with many of the Left Bank’s top estates, including the Médoc’s four first growths.
St Julien is the smallest of the "Big Four" Médoc communes. Although, without any First Growths, St Julien is recognised to be the most consistent of the main communes, with several châteaux turning out impressive wines year after year.
St Julien itself is much more of a village than Pauillac and almost all of the notable properties lie to its south. Its most northerly château is Ch. Léoville Las Cases (whose vineyards actually adjoin those of Latour in Pauillac) but, further south, suitable vineyard land gives way to arable farming and livestock until the Margaux appellation is reached.
The soil is gravelly and finer than that of Pauillac, and without the iron content which gives Pauillac its stature. The homogeneous soils in the vineyards (which extend over a relatively small area of just over 700 hectares) give the commune a unified character.
The wines can be assessed as much by texture as flavour, and there is a sleek, wholesome character to the best. Elegance, harmony and perfect balance and weight, with hints of cassis and cedar, are what epitomise classic St Julien wines. At their very best they combine Margaux’s elegance and refinement with Pauillac’s power and substance.
Ch. Léoville Las Cases produces arguably the most sought-after St Julien, and in any reassessment of the 1855 Classification it would almost certainly warrant being elevated to First Growth status.
Cabernet Sauvignon Blend
Cabernet Sauvignon lends itself particularly well in blends with Merlot. This is actually the archetypal Bordeaux blend, though in different proportions in the sub-regions and sometimes topped up with Cabernet Franc, Malbec, and Petit Verdot.
In the Médoc and Graves the percentage of Cabernet Sauvignon in the blend can range from 95% (Mouton-Rothschild) to as low as 40%. It is particularly suited to the dry, warm, free- draining, gravel-rich soils and is responsible for the redolent cassis characteristics as well as the depth of colour, tannic structure and pronounced acidity of Médoc wines. However 100% Cabernet Sauvignon wines can be slightly hollow-tasting in the middle palate and Merlot with its generous, fleshy fruit flavours acts as a perfect foil by filling in this cavity.
In St-Emilion and Pomerol, the blends are Merlot dominated as Cabernet Sauvignon can struggle to ripen there - when it is included, it adds structure and body to the wine. Sassicaia is the most famous Bordeaux blend in Italy and has spawned many imitations, whereby the blend is now firmly established in the New World and particularly in California and Australia.