As we drove towards Châteaux Cantenac-Brown we stopped on the side of the narrow stone lane (a) to take a photo, and (b) to take in the grandeur of the architecture.
Château Cantenac-Brown is a winery in the Margaux appellation of Bordeaux, France. The wine produced here was classified as one of fourteen ‘third growths’ in the historic Bordeaux Wine Classification of 1855.
The vineyards were planted in 1754, by Jacques Boyd, who was of Irish descent. The name 'Brown' in question was none other than John Lewis Brown, who also owned Château Brown in Pessac-Léognan; he acquired the Boyd property in 1806 when he married into the Boyd family.

 
 

Acquired in 1860 by Armand Lalande, who also owned Léoville-Poyferré. It was he that chose the name Cantenac-Brown, in honour of Brown's tenure there, and he was also responsible for the construction of the château, one of the most distinctive of the Médoc region. Whereas most of the region's châteaux were built using local stone, which gives them a pale appearance, Cantenac-Brown was constructed of a brown brick.

 

From Armand the estate passed to the next generation of the Lalande family, a daughter, and then again to her son. Then after a long period of turmoil the estate was purchased by AXA Group in 1989. The AXA team, led at that time by Jean-Michel Cazes, and under the direction of Christian Seely, began to turn the estate around. It came as somewhat of a surprise, then, to find the estate sold earlier this year - 2006, the new owner a British businessman Mr Simon Halabi. It will be exciting to see what plans he has for Cantenac-Brown.
The Cantenac-Brown vineyards cover 54ha, mostly around Cantenac, although there are other small plots nearby. The vineyard soils are typical gravel and are planted with 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Merlot and 10% Cabernet Franc. José Sanfins the (general manager / winemaker) and our host - was only able to spend a brief time with us at the first part of our visit - as fruit was being harvested and coming in while we were there. José has stayed on, and has improved vineyard practices including the reduction in use of chemical fertilizers.
All grapes are hand-picked, and then fermented in new temperature-controlled stainless steel tanks. The wine is then transferred into oak barrels for up to 18 months, with 60% of the barrels replaced each vintage. Château Cantenac-Brown is typically 15000 cases, and there is also the Brio du Château Cantenac Brown label. There is also a Bordeaux Supérieur, produced from a vineyard of 8ha, named Château Brown Lamartine.

 

Over the years I have enjoyed several vintages of Cantenac-Brown, and the past few vintages of the estate hold great promise for the future. Simon Halabi certainly has the financial where-withal to continue the investment and forward momentum.
My traveling companion and good friend Peter and I tasted a barrel sample of the 2005 vintage and two vintages of all of their wine labels. All the wines are honest to their terroir and heritage - bright and approachable, not trying to be anything more than they are and very versatile with everyday meat cuisine. I look forward to seeing how the 2005 vintage will develop and age.