Most of the Bordeaux that I offer on this list are either futures, or mature and ready to drink vintages. There’s a third category of wines that I like to come back to from time to time though, those that are “about to be ready”. These are often really smart buys, as you’re not tying up your capital and storage space to keep things for the really long term, but you’re also not paying the premium for something fully aged and ready to go. There tends to be a notable spike in a wine’s retail price once it crosses the line between nearly ready and ready, so it’s a good idea to jump in a little early when you can.
To that end, I present the stunning Branaire Ducru 2010. Branaire is consistently good and consistently well priced, and in great years it can really soar. 2010 and 2016 are without doubt the greatest vintages of at least the past decade, and this is just as good as you’d hope it would be. The 2016 has an average retail price in the States of $88. The 2010, almost the full decade older and just about to hit its stride, is a magnificent buy at $85. Note that Parker said in 2013 that it needed 4-6 years, and that Jane Anson in 2017 suggested another four. Already spectacular, we are right on the verge of this opening up into something even more special than it is today. Buy it now.
2010 Château Branaire Ducru, St Julien
This wine is more backward than I would have normally expected, but nevertheless, it is very impressive. The 2010 Branaire-Ducru displays an inky bluish purple color and loads of mulberry, raspberry, black currant, graphite and floral notes in its intense aromatics. Medium to full-bodied , with sensational ripeness, purity, texture and length, the tannins are slightly more prominent than I remember from barrel, but they are sweet and ripe (as opposed to astringent and bitter). This beautiful wine needs 4-6 years of cellaring and should keep 25-30 years. 94 pts., Robert Parker, 2013
Wow, this is still knitted in, hunkered down, you feel the tannic frame, cradling the intense fruit that majors on spiced damsons and blackcurrants. What a vintage, and still really nowhere near being ready. I would suggest drinking the 2011 right now if you want a younger Branaire, this needs another five or six years. But there is liquorice, slate, cigar smoke, still pretty austere today, not generous, and yet full of life and edges. (Drink between 2021-2045) 94 pts., Jane Anson, Decanter, 2017
More about the wine:
Branaire Ducru itself is one of my favourite Châteaux. It’s one of the sadly dwindling number of Grand Cru Classé estates that is owned and run by a family rather than a ‘business’. I am extremely fond of the current young owner François Xavier Maroteaux, who has sadly only just taken over the Château on his father Patrick’s untimely death at the age of just 67 following an illness. Patrick was an owner who had an unusually sound understanding of the international marketplace and where pricing should be, leading to Branaire being one of the most well loved and well priced great estates of the Left Bank. I chatted with François Xavier recently and the line he said that stuck with me was simply that ‘We continue the story…’. Everything that I have seen from him convinces me that he is more than capable of taking what is already a wonderful history and continuing it further. I can see the passion and love for his estate in everything he says and does.
His father Patrick, who was also president of both the Union des Grands Cru and of the St Julien appellation, was a groundbreaking owner throughout the 90s, introducing several winemaking practices (notably the exclusive use of gravity rather than pumps in the winery) that would become widespread amongst the finest producers. All sorts of other improvements were made in both the vineyard and the winery, and by the 21st century these were paying serious dividends and extraordinary wine was being made.