Often it’s the unexpected that turns out to be the best, and that was certainly the case on our Bordeaux adventure. This was a trip two years in the making– hours on the phone with airline ticket agents trying to work out our frequent flyer points and hours of planning. It was all worth it!
You can see some of our early adventures in Bordeaux on my blog Tanjents, but it was one of our last stops that was most memorable.
After a couple of days touring and tasting at some of the finest chateaux in the region, we made an impromptu stop at the end of the day at a beautiful estate called Chateau Branaire-Ducru located in the Saint-Julien region of Bordeaux. The place had a serene, inviting appeal to it, so we pulled in.
Keep in mind, most wineries (Chateaux) in Bordeaux require appointments…especially the famous ones. As we navigated the parking lot, I noticed in my little Bordeaux brochure that this chateau was among the elite Grand Crus of Bordeaux. Getting in for a tasting or tour was a long shot, but hey, I’ve been a journalist all my career—I had to give it a try. My patient husband can tell you we’ve been kicked out of all kinds of places—being refused at a fine Bordeaux chateau wouldn’t be that big a deal.
As we walked up to the grand chateau, a couple of men were sitting on the steps. One appeared to be a member of a camera crew, the other a very distinguished looking gentleman who asked if he could help us.
Before you know it, he was leading us back to the winery. As we talked about the estate, I asked him who owns Chateau Branaire-Ducru, and his reply…’I do!’
Wow, we knew we were in for something special…an opportunity to learn about this wine firsthand…to hear from the owner about his dreams, passion and goals for making his wine.
I love stories like his.
Patrick Maroteaux, Chateau Branaire-Ducru’s owner, left a banking career in Paris for a simpler, slower life in Bordeaux…a ‘quality of life’ choice he made back in the late 80’s.
Being a Bordeaux neophyte, I had never tasted Chateau Branaire-Ducru’s wines. I was kicking myself for not doing more research and being prepared. Here we were discussing one of Bordeaux’s finest wines with its owner and I knew nothing about it!
I did know that most of the classic Bordeaux wines aren’t considered to be fruit forward. Their flavor profiles are usually an interwoven mix of fruits, minerals, earthiness and even spices…not what would be known as ‘fruit bombs.’
Patrick, as we called him, told us with Chateau Branaire-Ducru he wanted to create a Bordeaux wine that was big on fruit but yet still honored the wine making style of Saint-Julien wines. He talked at length about the fruit and how he wanted to create an identity for his wines – one that wine drinkers would readily recognize and be able to enjoy sooner rather than later.
Even if I hadn’t been introduced to Chateau Branaire-Ducru wines by the owner, I would be a fan. Though young, his lovely wine was fabulous…smoother than I would’ve expected. The fruit shone through but there were also light flavors of vanilla, some minerals and a hint of cedar.
This is definitely a Bordeaux wine I’ll buy at home. At about $60 a bottle, it would be a valued addition to any special occasion – or for one of those nights when you just want to celebrate life!