A couple more unsung AOC Margaux TNs ('78 Labégorce & '78 Brane)

TNs posted here the last couple of days on '83 Dauzac and '01/'02 Boyd inspired me to pop a couple of older unheralded AOC Margaux and post my notes. Sure, Brane is probably a top-5 address in AOC Margaux but no one goes gaga over a '78 … though I must say I found some real pleasure and good values in '78 and '79 BDX lately … the wines tend to be classically structured and affordably priced, and now seems to be a good chance to bid them adieu them before they exit stage left.

  • 1978 Château Brane-Cantenac - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux (11/11/2019)
    Based on the divergent recent reviews from Neil Martin and Cellartrackers, evidently this wine lives up to the maxim that there are no great wines, only great bottles. In any event my particular bottle (sourced recently from a French auction house and showing all the signs of a long slumber in a cool damp cellar, then stood up for more than a month) was a delight. Beautiful pale ruby robe; moderately expressive nose of earth, leather and some red fruit, as well a light floral note. On the palate the wine had a modest core of sweet cherry (not a marker I usually pick up in classic aged Bordeaux) with some plum notes, surrounded by fresh mushrooms and sous-bois. There was also a sense of violets which, combined with the rather lush mouthfeel, imparted a feminine impression (if you’ll pardon the classically sexist terminology). Tannins are fully resolved but there is enough acidity on the finish – just the barest hint of it volatile – to refresh the palate. It was convincing as an AOC Marguax but if tasted blind could do justice to Harry Waugh’s quip about the confusion of Bordeaux with Burgundy. A real treat and I’m glad to have a couple more bottles in the cellar. (92 pts.)

  • 1978 Château Labégorce - France, Bordeaux, Médoc, Margaux (11/12/2019)
    Recently sourced from a French auction site at <€25 a bottle delivered, and at that price I decided to take a flyer given some positive reviews here and my generally favorable impressions of '78 and '79 BDX. Bottle stood up for several weeks. The wine was surprisingly very dark for a 41 year old Margaux – vinified to just 11.5% ABV no less – really a dark ruby with only some very modest signs of tawny at the edges. On the nose and palate this had just a bit of lean red fruit (cranberry) but for the most part the aroma and flavor profile was earth, leather, sous bois and a fairly prominent green note (my first impression was bell peppers though WCI says the Cab Franc component is now just 3%, though perhaps it was higher in the past). That greenness would kill this wine’s appeal for neophytes but I rather liked it (think Sociando, not LBT). There was perhaps a hint of VA but not enough to be offputting, and I enjoyed the wine when drunk with dinner and served on the cool side. Thank God this wasn’t a blind tasting though because I would have pegged the wine as a turn-of-the-milleinum Loire cab franc… (86 pts.)


(if you’ll pardon the classically sexist terminology)

A legit zhe outta welcome it.

[Although that begs the question of whether there really is such a thing as a legit zhe.]

Thanks for the nice notes, Ethan! Indeed, in earlier years, bottle variation was much more prevalent than it is today. I remember a case of 1985 Brane-Cantenac. Six bottles were absolutely heavenly, four bottles rather mediocre and the rest simply uninteresting.