The 2022 Branaire Ducru was harvested from 12-24 September at 34.5hL/ha, the blend representative of their vineyard plantings. This feels refined and focused on the nose with plush red berry fruit, dried rose petals and orange rind scents. Classic Branaire. The palate is fresh on the entry with pliant tannins.
It's very well structured to the degree that it conveys a sense of symmetry. Lightly spiced toward the finish with notes of graphite lingering on the aftertaste, this represents an excellent Branaire Ducru that will age over many years and will surely appeal to those seeking more classical Saint-Julien. Tasted three times and was more impressive each time.
Branaire-Ducru continues its upward trajectory under proprietor François-Xavier Maroteaux. 14.3% alcohol.
Drink 2030 - 2065
Neal Martin, Vinous.com (May 2023)
The 2022 Branaire-Ducru is made from 60.5% CS, 31.5% Merlot, 5.5% Cabernet Franc, and 2.5% Petit Verdot with a yield of 34.5 hl/ha. Deep garnet-purple in colour, it gallops out of the glass with energetic notes of crushed blackcurrants, fresh blackberries, juicy plums, and suggestions of clove oil, fertile loam, and dried lavender.
The medium to full-bodied palate has a lot of elegance and finesse for its density and hefty weight. It features lively black fruit layers and an approachable, grainy texture, finishing on a mineral note. Nicely done! The pH is 3.65.
Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW, The Wine Independent (May 2023)
This is an estate that can be so understated as to almost miss its complexity, but this vintage, with its excess and exuberance, does a wonderful job of drawing it out. The concentration is impressive, but there you'll also find a softness and balance that is juicy and enticing. Great job Branaire Ducru. Francois Xavier Maroteaux owner. I honestly think the best example of this château that I have ever tasted En Primeur (and god I hate it when critics say that).
Drink 2030 - 2044
Jane Anson, JaneAnson.com (May 2023)
A brilliant wine that's the finest young vintage I've tasted at this Saint-Julien estate, the 2022 Branaire-Ducru wafts from the glass with aromas of violets, blackberries, sweet cassis, liquorice and pencil shavings, followed by a medium to a full-bodied, layered and multidimensional palate that's succulent, sapid and perfumed, framed by supple tannins and concluding with a long, mouthwatering finish.
It's a blend of 60.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31.5% Merlot, 5.5% Cabernet Franc and 2.5% Petit Verdot that checks in at a healthy pH of 3.65. Why is it so good this year? In addition to the quality of the vintage, the new gravity-flow winery means the fruit can be handled more gently and picked more precisely, sub-block by sub-block, as the team now have fully 63 vats at their disposal, almost double their capacity through 2020.
Given the Maroteaux family's sensible approach to pricing, this is likely to number among the must-purchase wines of the 2022 vintage, and it comes warmly recommended.
William Kelley, Wine Advocate (April 2023)
60.5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31.5% Merlot, 5.5% Cabernet Franc, 2.5% Petit Verdot. Cask sample.
Slight reduction but a touch of blackcurrant leaf as well. Gourmand fruit with plenty of matière, but this sample is a little edgy. Touch of oak on the palate, the finish tough and chewy. Should improve. (JL) 14%
Drink 2028 - 2038
James Lawther MW, JancisRobinson.com (May 2023)
The fine and intense tannins are very impressive because they fold beautifully into the wine, with blackcurrants, black cherries, hints of chocolate and hazelnuts. It's full-bodied with tight, focused fruit and a long, classy finish. Fantastic definition to this. Fresh. 60.5% cabernet sauvignon, 31.5% merlot, 5.5% cabernet franc, and 2.5% petit verdot.
James Suckling, JamesSuckling.com (April 2023)
An absolute gem of a Saint-Julien, the 2022 Château Branaire-Ducru clocks in as 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 31% Merlot, and the balance Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot.
Pure cassis, black raspberries, spicy wood, and dried flower notes all define the aromatics, and it hits the palate with medium to full-bodied richness, a silky, elegant, beautifully balanced mouthfeel, and terrific tannins.
In addition, it has a sense of freshness and purity that keeps you coming back to the glass. It's clearly the finest wine I've tasted from this château, which going forward merits serious attention.
Jeb Dunnuck, JebDunnuck.com (May 2023)
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.