Chateau Pontet-Canet (scuffed labels) 2003
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
Jean Francois Pontet, Royal Master of the Horse in the early 18th Century, bought and consolidated several plots of land located northwest of Pauillac. Several years later, in 1750, his descendants bought neighboring vineyards in an area named "Canet", thus creating one of the largest estates in the entire Medoc. Chateau Pontet-Canet's topography and soil predestined it to produce great wine.
In 1865, the noted wine shipper Hermann Cruse acquired the chateau and its 120 hectares of vones. The Cruse dynasty provided the financial means to make one of the greatest wines in the Medoc. In 1975, Guy Tesseron, solidly implanted in the Cognac region, and owner of Lafon Rochet in St-Estephe, purchsed Pontet-Canet.
The family's avowed ambition is to pass on the history of Chateau Pontet-Canet and secure its future. Today, it is Guy Tesseron’s descendants who own the estate today: Alfred and his nieces Mélanie and Philippine, daughters of his late brother Gérard. Together, they have the same outlook. Alfred shares his vision of the estate with Mélanie, passing on to her its traditions, his outlook on vinegrowing and his passion for wine.
In 2004, the year of the first biodynamic trial which took place on 14 hectares, the wines were radiant, tighter and brighter. Alfred urged Jean-Michel to go further. The estate was fully converted to biodynamic agriculture. This decision became a commitment and a challenge, but also a first for a Médoc Classified Growth.
Since then, with each vintage comes new knowledge, furthering the understanding of the terroir in a profound way. The vine’s resistance to disease is better known today, the understanding of how different parcels behave has improved, always in keeping with biodynamic principles. It requires sincerity, pragmatism and transparency: in a nutshell, absolute dedication.
The wines of Chateau Pontet-Canet obtained organic certification from Ecocert and biodynamic certification from Biodyvin in 2010 and from Demeter in 2014.
A shared state of mind and a particular sensitivity are the key factors which have propelled Chateau Pontet-Canet to the summit of Bordeaux wines in recent years. They are the expression of the Tesseron family’s quiet determination to ensure continuity over the long term.
The leader on the Left Bank in number of first growth classified producers within its boundaries, Pauillac has more than any of the other appellations, at three of the five. Chateau Lafite Rothschild and Mouton Rothschild border St. Estephe on its northern end and Chateau Latour is at Pauillac’s southern end, bordering St. Julien.
While the first growths are certainly some of the better producers of the Left Bank, today they often compete with some of the “lower ranked” producers (second, third, fourth, fifth growth) in quality and value. The Left Bank of Bordeaux subscribes to an arguably outdated method of classification that goes back to 1855. The finest chateaux in that year were judged on the basis of reputation and trading price; changes in rank since then have been miniscule at best. Today producers such as Chateau Pontet-Canet, Chateau Grand Puy-Lacoste, Chateau Lynch-Bages, among others (all fifth growth) offer some of the most outstanding wines in all of Bordeaux.
Defining characteristics of fine wines from Pauillac (i.e. Cabernet-based Bordeaux Blends) include inky and juicy blackcurrant, cedar or cigar box and plush or chalky tannins.
Layers of gravel in the Pauillac region are key to its wines’ character and quality. The layers offer excellent drainage in the relatively flat topography of the region allowing water to run off into “jalles” or streams, which subsequently flow off into the Gironde.
One of the world’s most classic and popular styles of red wine, Bordeaux-inspired blends have spread from their homeland in France to nearly every corner of the New World, especially in California, Washington and Australia. Typically based on either Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot and supported by Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petit Verdot, these are sometimes referred to in the US as “Meritage” blends. In Bordeaux itself, Cabernet Sauvignon dominates in wines from the Left Bank of the Gironde River, while the Right Bank focuses on Merlot. Often, blends from outside the region are classified as being inspired by one or the other.
Tasting Notes for Bordeaux Blends
Bordeaux Blends are dry, red wines and generally have aromas and flavors of black currant, black cherry plum, graphite, cedar and violet. Cabernet-based, Left-Bank-styled wines are typically more tannic and structured, while Merlot-based wines, modeled after the Right Bank, are softer and suppler. Cabernet Franc can add herbal notes, while Malbec and Petit Verdot contribute color and structure.
Perfect Food Pairings for Bordeaux Blends
Since Bordeaux red blends are often quite structured and tannic, they pair best with hearty, flavorful and fatty meat dishes. Any type of steak makes for a classic pairing. Equally welcome with these wines would be beef brisket, pot roast, braised lamb or smoked duck.
Sommelier Secrets for Bordeaux Blends
While the region of Bordeaux is limited to a select few approved grape varieties in specified percentages, the New World is free to experiment. Bordeaux blends in California may include equal amounts of Cabernet Franc and Malbec, for example. Occassionally a winemaker might add a small percentage of a non-Bordeaux variety, such as Syrah or Petite Sirah for a desired result.