I do not believe the 1996 Branaire will equal the quality of the 1995. The 1996 is excellent, revealing a deep ruby color with purple nuances (less saturated than many). It is closed aromatically, with some of Branaire's sweet, lead pencil, cranberry, cassis aromas gradually emerging after considerable coaxing. There is some sweet fruit on the attack, but the finish possesses significant tannic clout. Medium-bodied and pure, the 1996 Branaire appears to possess the right component parts, but it is awkward and closed. Anticipated maturity: 2004-2015. Last tasted 3/97.
My notes on this wine have been shockingly similar, almost to the point of being word for word, despite the fact I have had the 1996 a half-dozen different times. Obviously I am proud of how consistent my palate is, but I was struck by the identical descriptions given this wine on multiple occasions. There are very positive attributes to the 1996 Branaire, from its dark purple color, to its chocolatey, cherry, lead pencil, and toasty aromas and flavors. However, the wine is extremely tannic, somewhat austere, and although the ripeness and palate impression offer excellent purity, medium-bodied richness, and fine ripeness, the wine still seems disjointed and awkward. I would not bet against this St.-Julien because there are too many positive things going on, but it is not the sure thing that many other 1996 Medocs appear to be. Anticipated maturity: 2005-2015.
The 1996 was retasted twice prior to bottling, and on both occasions I rated it between 90-92, which is slightly higher than in the past. There is an exquisite harmony between all of its elements, and it may represent one of the few 1996 Medocs that has not gone off the charts in terms of price. Readers take note. Drink: 2005-2015.
My concerns about the 1996 Branaire turning out too tannic were unfounded. Tasted three times out of bottle, it is a textbook Branaire, with a tell-tale floral, raspberry, and black currant-scented nose intermixed with minerals and floral nuances. Elegant and pure, with surprising lushness and sweet, well-integrated tannin, this medium-bodied, finesse-styled wine should be at its finest between 2005-2018.
Deep crimson with some development at the rim. Low-key nose, only starting to unfurl but there is a promising amount of Cabernet Sauvignon-dominated fruit here. Not the subtlest wine but quite lip smacking and with quite a future ahead of it. 13%. Drinking dates 2009-2020
Medium-full colour. Good substance on thenose. Medium-full body. Some tannin. Alittle astringent. Slightly chunky. Decentfruit and acidity if no real class or depth.Positive finish though. Good.Drink 2004-2014
Across the road from Beychevelle lies Château Branaire Ducru. Until 1988, the entire production was sold in France through the Nicolas chain of wine shops. A change in ownership fortunately also changed that policy and Branaire Ducru now takes its rightful place on the international marketplace. Like most Médoc wines, the core of the blend is Cabernet Sauvignon and intensive work in the vineyard ensures optimum ripeness. Château Branaire Ducru aims for a balance of elegance and complexity - a trend which has been apparent since 1989, the vintage after its current owner, Patrick Maroteaux, purchased the château.
St Julien is like the middle child of the Médoc - not as assertive as Pauillac or as coquettish as Margaux. It lies firmly between the two more outspoken communes and as a result produces a blend of them both. St Julien's wines have often been sought out by aficionados for their balance and consistency, particularly in the UK. Yet due to its middle child nature, it can occasionally be overlooked globally and as a result underrated by those markets outside the UK. Despite the fact that it has no first growths, it has several second growths including Léoville Las Cases, Léoville Barton, Léoville Poyferré and Ducru Beaucaillou as well as the celebrated châteaux such as Talbot and Beychevelle.