Chateau Pontet Canet – a rising star in Pauillac
My visit at Chateau Pontet Canet in Pauillac was scheduled for 14:00 on June 24th. I arrived a bit earlier and, as it was lunch time and all the staff had a break, I managed to keep myself busy by visiting the horse stables and by walking in the vines in front of the neighboring Chateau Mouton Rothschild.
I did some research about Pontet Canet before visiting. After belonging to Pontet family for 140 years, Pontet Canet was bought in 1862 by Herman Cruse, a negociant of Danish origin. Cruse has arrived in Bordeaux as a young man and made a great success of exporting to Germany and Scandinavia. He paid for Pontet Canet – and also Giscours, d’Issan, Rausan-Segla and others – with the proceeds of a magnificent gamble: during the market collapse following the 1848 Revolution he had acquired at extremely low prices in excess of 16 million bottles of the great 1847 vintage of some 130 estates, the greatest included, and had resold them at high prices when the market had improved.
Cruse set about enlarging the vineyard and putting it in order, renovated the Chateau and landscaped the grounds, built an underground barrel cellar and equipped the vat-room with the latest technology. The quality improved considerably, and the the end of the century the wine was selling at 2eme cru prices. Yet, bottles varied a lot for the wine was frequently exported in barrel and bottled by the buyer, or bottled in Bordeaux. The Cruses did not believe in chateau-bottling, and were the last to adopt this procedure in 1972. For a long period Pontet Canet was listed on the wine list of the SNCF wagons-lits restaurant cars. What was sold on the trains was a non-vintage blend, consisting of inferior vats and years. This was bad for its reputation and a negative image was created. The property was acquired in 1975 by Guy Tesseron, son-in-law of Emmanuel Cruse, who owned Chateau Lafon Rochet and an important name in the Cognac business.
As a result of the introduction of manual harvesting, rigorous selection, the creation of a second wine(Les Hauts de Pontet Canet) in 1982, the installation of temperature-controlled stainless steel vats, the wine started to reflect the quality of the terroir. The vineyards are in 2 large blocks, divided into 92 parcels. About 50 ha surround the chateau, and aother 28 ha are on the other side of the D2 road, on slopes leading down toward the estuary. This latter block is where much of the Merlot is planted. The other block rises to a height of almost 30 m, over a sub-soil of clay and limestone.
In 2003 Tesseron stopped using herbicides. By 2000, modern new wooden fermentation vats replaced old ones. Separate sorting tables are used for the top parcels and for the lesser parcels. The crushed grapes fall by gravity into the vats.
The grand vin is aged for about 16-20 months, depending on the vintage, in a high proportion of new French oak. Les Hauts de Pontet is aged for 12 months in older barrels. Michel Rolland consults since 1999.
The property works bio-dynamically 25 ha of the total 80 ha it owns, and plans to work bio-dynamically the entire property in the near future. Investments in horses and special designed equipment, coupled with a strong commitment, will push this property to reach its goal towards bio-dynamics and reach higher levels of quality.
There is a continuous experimenting taking places: around 12 egg-shaped cement tanks are used to compare how wine ages. While entering the underground cellar, a few bottles of Pontet Canet 2005 lay down in a pyramid liked structure with a controlled temperature and humidity. According to my host and contrary to my initial thought, the aging process is accelerated in a pyramid.
The tour of the property was made in an electric golf like automobile. Very comfy drive and I was able to focus better on the surroundings while enjoying the ride.
The tasting room, also used for receptions and parties, is a spacious chamber on the first floor, just upstairs the cuvier. The tasting room offers a spectacular panorama of the nearby vineyards that you can enjoy while tasting wine.
I tasted the 2010 vintage which produced a prodigy at Pontet Canet.
2010 Chateau Pontet Canet
Blend of 65% Cab Sauv, 30% Merlot, 4% Cab Franc, 1% Petit Verdot planned to be aged for 16 months.
A dark purple almost black color. Classic Cab Sauv nose, rich, with good green vegetables aromas, blackcurrant, coffee and tobacco, ample mouth-feel, fresh, good grip on the palate, mouth-watering acidity and a very long finish. (95-98/100)
A wine built to last. The 2010 en-primeur was released at 100 Eur ex-negociant and was the second top traded wine based on both volume and value according to Liv-ex platform. It is a fact that Pontet Canet gained in quality over the last decade, and even though it is labelled as a 5eme Cru, according to the 1855 classification, the wine offers consistent super-Second quality. Just like the Leoville Poyferre, Pontet Canet will be a great addition to any decent cellar and will offer great drinking pleasure for a very long time.
Watch a video about Chateau Pontet Canet: