The château at Cantenac Brown in Margaux is unique in Bordeaux. Its remarkable Tudor features are the consequence of its commissioning by a Scotsman, John Lewis-Brown in the early 19th century and it would not look out of place at the end of a drive through a deer park in Suffolk. Classified as a third growth in 1855, it is now owned by a British property magnate and is under the management of Portuguese native José Sanfins, previously winemaker at Society favourite Château Belgrave. Under his management Cantenac Brown has seen its stock rise as he pushes an agenda of quality consciousness, improving vastly on a reputation that had previously been somewhat lacklustre.
The 48-hectare estate is an excellent site for grapes, sitting as it does on predominantly gravelly soils topped with scatterings of white stones that act as reflectors and radiators of heat stored during the day. Cabernet sauvignon (65%), merlot (30%) and cabernet franc (5%) make up the plantings for the flagship reds with an average age of 35 years, though there has been an effort to replant some parcels onto better rootstocks. Sauvignon blanc and semillon are also planted in a smaller area for the Alto de Cantenac white wine.
The vines are given individual attention throughout the year and when the time comes everything is hand-harvested by parcel when each parcel is at its optimum ripeness, sorted on a vibrating table at the winery and vinified separately, by variety and age. The red wine then spends 12 to 15 months in oak, 50% to 70% new depending on the vintage, racked off the lees every three months. A second wine, Brio de Cantenac, was introduced in 2001 which has helped to improve the first wine.