At the beginning of the 19th century, John Lewis-Brown (1769-1851), bought a vineyard and designed in the village of Cantenac, a traditional, Tudor-style château, reminding him of his Scottish origins. His name is forever linked to the Grand Cru Classé. His grandson, John-Lewis Brown (1829-1890) esteemed animal painter and ‘Chevalier de la Légion d’Honneur’, spent time there during his childhood. In 1843, Mr. Gromard, banker, took over the estate. After the 1855 Grand Cru Classification, Louis Armand Lalande (1820-1894), Bordeaux wine merchant and owner of several estates in Médoc, extended the building. Surrounded by a remarkable, British-style park, Château Cantenac Brown is among the most original in Médoc. In 2006, the Simon Halabi family has given new impetus to the estate with the ambition of raising it to the highest echelons. José Sanfins presently manages Château Cantenac-Brown. He does his utmost to make the best of the magnificent terroir, lavishing the greatest of care on the soil and the vines, with great respect for the environment. This meticulous attention to detail continues into the cellar, where everything possible is done to produce an exceptional wine.
With José Sanfins in charge, methods have changed. The vineyard is managed in a more environmentally friendly way: the ‘sustainable approach’ goes without saying. The vines are cared for throughout the year and yields are controlled. Strictly plant-based fertilizers are applied in a moderately and balanced way in tune with the needs of the vines. This respect for nature explains why the Château Cantenac Brown team continues to use the traditional soil maintenance techniques, which gradually enhance the structural, chemical and biological properties of the earth. Over 400,000 vine stocks are managed every year. Pruning, removal of buds, leaves and secondary shoots is done several times a year and the whole team works vine by vine and checks each single cluster, before the grapes are hand-harvested.
The attractive white stones reflect the sun’s rays onto the fruit in daytime while at night, they radiate the heat retained during the day. The quality of the wines is no accident: the predominantly gravelly slope in the village of Cantenac produces some of the best wines in the world and is location of many Crus Classés of Margaux. The soils, poor and generous at the same time, added to deep rooted vines and the vintners’ know-how lead to fine, elegant and perfectly balanced wines. The 2010 growing season was marked by dry weather all over the region. Winter to summer was very cold, with temperatures 2-3°C below the normal average. The weather started off mild in April, but May was much cooler. Overall, the weather remained cool for two consecutive years, with morning frost at the point of harvest on October 18th. The solar weather patterns for the 2010 season are notable and similar those of 2009. The month of April was exceptionally warm and sunny. Both years, 2009 and 2010, had great amounts of sun, even more than the great 2005 vintage.
The Chateau’s loyal vineyard crew works hard to assure their harvests are of the utmost quality, down to the last grape, year after year. This year, the harvest was longer than usual, and it spread out over five weeks, with a total of 12 picking days, as they wait patiently for the perfect maturity of each and every plot. Their ally was the great weather, all the way through, until the end of harvest. Autumn gave them an Indian summer with warm days and cool nights.
The high alcohol and high tannin potential led them to choose a low temperature fermentation (26°C/27°C) to keep the fruit flavour at a maximum. The colour came through immediately, showing great signs of maturity. The first run just was exceptionally thick. One of their cellar workers, Bruno Hydié, who has seen over 20 vintages there, said he couldn’t believe his eyes.
The freshness of this vintage is remarkable with such naturally high alcohol content. Amazingly, the acid, alcohol, and tannins form a perfect harmony. This is what makes the 2010 vintage so powerful. It’s exceptional to see how such harmony, with all the extraordinary elements, gives such a sumptuous wine. The wine, which is comprised of 66% Cabernet Sauvignon and 34% Merlot, was aged in barrels that were 60% new.