Tasting blind in real time at Château Branaire Ducru: 4 April 2012

Kudos to Chateau Branaire Ducru in St Julien for providing us with internet access as we sit and taste blind 34 wines from the northern Medoc. Since I liked Calon Segur so much, I am starting with the St Estephes today… And will post notes live so to speak, or at least just after. I have already tasted Sauternes and Margaux and other selected estates not part of the Union des Grands Crus de Bordeaux including Lafite, Calon Segur, Montrose, Pontet Canet and Pichon Longueville Baron… these notes will be posted subsequently.

So here are the tasting notes in the raw… no scores for now. 

At Château Branaire Ducru tasting 35 of the many 2011 barrel samples here in Bordeaux, all Haut Medoc, St Julien, Pauillac and St Estephe: 4 April 2012

St Estephe

I think in terms of what Vincent Millet told me about the appellation in general, that the clays kept the subsoil more humid than the gravels, so that Cabs on clay actually were able to mature better…

Flight one

31. Nicely aromatic here. Smooth attack. Soft mid palate, with a certain substance, and smooth tannins. Appealing, if not quite as nuanced and fresh as some of the Pauillacs later on…   LAFON ROCHET

32. Slightly dumber nose. Here we have a more substantial palate. Just a touch hard on the finish, compared to the preceding wine.  Lacks some richness of fruit. PHELAN SEGUR

33. Bit more oak derivation? Good fruit, a certain core of brightness. The palate does seem to have more evident oaky tannins, some drying, too… on the finish. COS LABORY

34. Darker black toned fruit. This is quite rich on the mid palate, and seems to have ripe black fruit. Some tannic austerity towards the finish, but not really drying. With barrel age, should develop nicely.  DE PEZ

35. More subtle, not as evident on the nose here.  Actually with time in glass, it gets more focused and a ripe fruit focus. Though a touch austere, there is pleasing seashell freshness, too, and enough fruit to make barrel aging work well here. I suspect. ORMES DE PEZ


Before today’s morning tasting, I had tried some Pauillacs at the chateaux.The Pibran I had as a cru bourgeois was fine, as were the higher end Pontet Canet, Duhart Milon and Pichon Baron. It was interesting to note that the Pontet Canet was quite tonic, not over the top richness (as was experienced in, say, 2005 or, less so, in 2009). It was rather iodine in aspect, salty and fresh and yet with fine richness, and welcoming. The Baron was also rather accessible if more “manly”… Certainly the Lafite Rothschild was on a more austere path on the palate, although the pure pencil lead graphite on the nose was remarkable. Duhart Milon was welcoming and fruit forward. Surpises in this tasting included the best Lynch Moussas I have had.

Flight one

29. Somewhat floral … and fine fruit on the nose. Palate is tonic and ripe, and substantial, if a touch nervy and bracing on to the finish. This has promise as the barrel aging will tone that down and lend more body and softness. GRAND PUY LACOSTE

28. Ripe nose here. Fresh. Palate is marked by oak tannin however, that seems a bit too pronounced at this early stage for me…    LYNCH BAGES

27. Certain ripe cassis on the nose, with a rather supple attack and a cranberry like freshness. A touch one dimensional? The finish is a bit thin.  CLERC MILON

26. Fine aromatics, floral even. The palate is cranberry freshness, albeit a somewhat choppy finish after a very substantial mid palate. Give it time to fill out in barrel. PICHON COMTESSE DE LALANDE

25. A bit jammy? This wine has an almost thick aspect, and yet some bracing acidity that gives it zing… not very cohesive. Fine lift on the finish, however, needs time in barrel to soften edginess and cross your fingers. CROIZET BAGES

Flight two

24.  Chocolate richness on the nose. The attack is at first supple but then there is a tannic austerity, enough of which that makes me worry if the fruit will match it over time. GRAND PUY DUCASSE

23. Somewhat drier here on the nose, marked by a certain oak derivation? Cranberry. Again, here we have a certain tannic tightness on the palate… perhaps slightly juicier than the above? HAUT BAGES LIBERAL

22. Pure fruit here. Here we have sève and sap, on the mid palate, with more juice, a fine success here for the vintage. LYNCH MOUSSAS

21. Fine fresh fruit. Good salt on the palate, freshness, and a thirst quenching aspect. Will barrel aging fill it out more?  BATAILLEY

20. Darker fruit nose, mingled with some a touch of oak derivation. The attack brings that as well, but it gets better on the palate, broad and rich even midway, with enough freshness coming from the acidity. This may turn out quite good… D’ARMAILHAC

St Julien.

Some very strong performances, which is not surprising, as St Julien tends to be very solid, year in and year out.

Flight one

10. Fresh and aromatically plum like nose. Palate is ripe and supple. Seashell freshness on the palate and smooth finish. Lovely! One of the best so far. LEOVILLE POYFERRE

11. Not as much lift on the nose as preceding but fine ripe red fruit on the nose. The palate is rich, with, again, acidity that gives it lift.  GRUAUD LAROSE

12. Bit more marked by some oak. The palate is however also fresh and marked by fruit. The finish is a touch austere… give time in barrel to get some softening oxygen? Does not seem over-extracted in any case. TALBOT

13. Somewhat closed nose. But palate is very fresh, ripe red fruits and a tonic if somewhat tight finish…  give it time in barrel. Also tasted in a vertical at the estate the day before. BRANAIRE DUCRU

14. Brighter cranberry and ripe red fruit on the nose. There is also lift here. Really fresh, but not quite as smooth as the first wine, although the freshness and slight edginess should get rounded from barrel aging. Perhaps showing the most substance on the mid palate in this flight? LAGRANGE

Thoughtful interlude, as I look at a new spitting bucket with shell shapes on both sides: Why are there so many sea shells in Bordeaux? Well, we are near the water. And that is what I also seek in my Bordeaux, a sea shell freshness, and I seem to be getting it in the wines this vintage. While some are austere, others are refined and fresh, such as Pontet Canet and Calon Segur, to take but two examples. As I write this, I am tasting blind 35 wines from the northern Medoc. Quite impressive some of them are…

Flight two

15. Ripe red fruit, oak toast. Palate is a bit thin, even if you have decent ripeness and zing. Barrel aging should fill it out, cross the proverbial fingers. SAINT PIERRE

16. Less lift than above, but also ripe perhaps darker fruit. Similar profile to the above albeit more ripeness and medium bodied presence.  LEOVILLE BARTON

17. Light licorice aspect. Here we have a fuller bodied palate, but not full bodied. Get it? The substance is there, however, and needs time to fill out in barrel, fine potential, although not saying so much now, with a tight finish. GLORIA

18. Sweetish aspect on the nose. Here we have more evident ripeness, although there is a bit of a disjointed aspect, with fruit and tannin battling it out somewhat, amidst a bit of oak derivation, and a slightly choppy finish. Needs time to sort itself out. BEYCHEVELLE

19. Quite red plum fruit on the nose and vanillin from the oak? Freshness on the palate, some austerity though but just enough fruit to make it interesting. LANGOA BARTON

Haut Medoc

More of a mixed bag, but some nice performances here… one of the best Malescasses I have had in a while.

Flight one

2. Somewhat oak derived on the nose? But the palate has sap and freshness. A touch austere on the finish, tannins showing. BEAUMONT

1. More fruit forward. Palate has black licorice, not sweet, but certainly an aniseed aspect. Pampered structure on the palate, but will benefit from barrel aging. COUFRAN

3. More serious dark fruit on the nose here, which also seems juicier. Palate is somewhat choppy. Lacks just a bit of elegance.  CITRAN

4. Blackberry and licorice. Palate is again lacking some refinement. BELGRAVE

5. Fruit, red and freshness. There is also a juicier mid palate with not as austere tannins on the finish, one of the more successful Haut Medocs. MALESCASSE

Flight two

6. Thicker aspect, darker fruit, rich and then there is tonicity and some acidity to balance, there is a tannic edge bordering on some dryness on the finish, but a lot going on here… DE LAMARQUE

7. Sweeter nose, touch of vanilla but good ripe fruit. Palate is rather broad on the mid palate, even quite supple, with decent juiciness, and a rather smooth finish. Nice job. CANTEMERLE

8. Sweet almost liqueur like nose. The palate is smooth and quite rich, actually, with a pleasing fruit and tonicity. Another fine job. LA TOUR CARNET

9. Here we have greater austerity on the nose and on the palate, although there is ripe fruit in the mid palate, and substance, too. Cross fingers for barrel aging to do its work…  CAMENSAC

5 Responses to “Tasting blind in real time at Château Branaire Ducru: 4 April 2012” (Leave a Comment)

  1. Bail Bonds says:

    Great Insight…

    Tweeted your post!…

  2. David Ehrlich says:

    I really enjoyed your notes. It’s nice to see that some value driven estates llike Cantemerle did well. Is anyone talking about pricing for the vintage yet?

  3. pkakaviatos says:

    Thanks for reading David. Just rough notes. Hope to taste again at trade tastings. This is a challenging vintage, but if the prices are going to be right, some wines may be worth seeking out. I have my eyes set on Calon Segur for example. Prices for the firsts are rumoured to be introduced at anywhere between 250 and 350 per bottle. I guess a deal for the multimillionaires. If Robert Parker slams the vintage, then there could be some possible bargains for certain wines… wait and see. I will post more coherent notes by Saturday, I hope :-).

  4. pkakaviatos says:

    Many thanks for that… I need to get back on Twitter.

  5. […] posts, such as the tasting notes “posted live” from Château Branaire Ducru, were impromptu. I had since tasted some of the same wines again, at a trade tasting, non blind. As […]

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