Margaux, Bordeaux, France
The 2016 Brane-Cantenac is a blend of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot, 2% Cabernet Franc and 1% Carmenere picked from 22 September until 17 October (the tiny parcel of Carmenere picked three days later). The yields came in at 51 hectoliters per hectare and it is matured in 75% new oak and 25% one-year-old barrels, the final alcohol level 13.3%. It has a beautifully defined, very detailed bouquet with mineral-rich black fruit laced with cedar and graphite notes, living up to its nom de plume as the "Pauillac of Margaux." The palate is simply the best that I have ever tasted at the estate, without question. This has presence, but also weightlessness, filigree tannin and perfectly pitched acidity, with real intensity and drive. The tension here is outstanding and the persistence is incredibly long. It is not the showiest of all the 2016s by a long stretch, and yet it is everything you could possibly want from a Margaux. Like Beychevelle this year, the 2016 Brane-Cantenac puts recent vintages in the shade, thanks not only to the growing season, but also a new punching down system in their gravity-fed winery that was completed in 2015. The 2016 is a benchmark against which future vintages will be compared.