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Chateau Pontet-Canet

pontet-canet-cropped.jpgThere is no doubt that Pontet-Canet has truly exceeded its classification over the past 15 or so years, today making some of the greatest wines in all of Bordeaux.  Yet owner Alfred Tesseron and technical director Jean-Michel Comme will have none of it - they’re merely at the early stages of a process to allow Pontet-Canet to truly express itself and that the wines have improved dramatically is to be expected - after all, over many decades the terroir was all but destroyed.  In Jean-Michel’s words, “the wine is on a process of evolution to greatness”.

Strong words, but delving a little deeper, you realise the intense dedication to the vineyards the current custodians have for this fabulously-sited property, adjacent Mouton Rothschild atop a hill overlooking the Gironde Estuary.  Whilst not claiming such status, Pontet-Canet has been bio or following biodynamic principles now for years, and three purpose-trained horses (from Brittany) do all the work on 24 hectares of the large property (each horse can comfortably manage eight hectares).  After two years, results appear encouraging, so perhaps in another year or two they may get another horse...but there’s no haste here.  And no sense of nostalgia - the horses are deemed the best solution for working (ploughing, spraying) the vineyard throughout the season, avoiding soil compaction and limiting CO2 emissions.

pontet-canet-horse.jpgThere is a sense of regret, and even a mea culpa at Pontet-Canet for the sins of the past, where pesticides, herbicides and fertilisers were extensively used (as indeed at most vineyards in Bordeaux and around the world), as they resulted in vines of poor health, artificially sustained and coaxed into fruit production.  A firm belief that life in the soils is imperative for the making of special wine means that every process is undertaken to maximise and revitalise the life of the soils.

The vineyards were established in 1705 in Pauillac, and by 1755 was known as the house of Canet.  The Château was built in 1781, and the property bought by the Cruse family in 1864.  Whilst Pontet-Canet always had obvious potential, few shining examples of top-quality wine were produced here, even in great vintages.  By the 1960s Pontet-Canet was relegated to little more than a wine brand and Château-bottling was not even introduced until 1972 (nearly 50 years after Mouton Rothschild).  Following a blending scandal, Pontet-Canet was purchased by the Tesseron family, who had been long-established producers in Cognac and had purchased neighbouring St.-Estèphe 5th growth, Lafon-Rochet a decade earlier.


pontet-canet-team-tesseron-and-comme.jpgOne of the largest estates in Bordeaux, with some 120 hectares of which 80 hectares are currently planted to a mix of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 33% Merlot, 5% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot.  Average vine age is 40 years, and a gradual replanting program is in progress.  

There is now no green harvest conducted, and no de-leafing undertaken.  Instead each vine is allowed to produce its own naturally-balanced crop load, with each vine pruned appropriately to its capacity to produce top quality grapes.  For many years, Pontet-Canet boasted the largest-production of any classified growth, no-doubt accounting for the wide availability of their wines in many markets.


The grapes are harvested, sorted, de-stemmed and then sorted once more.  Primary fermentation and maceration last approximately three weeks at temperatures up to 30-32°C before being transferred into barrels for malolactic fermentation.  Approximately 60% new oak is utilised each year.

The wine spends around 16-18 months in barrel, and is racked every three months, before bottling with a light fining and (sometimes) a light filtration.  New 80hl reverse-conical concrete vats (see above) were installed prior to the 2005 vintage.  Alfred Tesseron is particularly proud of these, having design them himself.  Whilst useful for small-batch ferments, they also aid extraction through improved remontage, not to mention make cleaning post-vintage a much easier task!