The Grand Experiment of Château Pontet-Canet

15 Sep

Château Pontet-Canet is something of an oddity in Bordeaux. Traditionally considered a “Super 2nd” this 5th growth has seen its fortunes rise and fall and rise again over the past 300 years. Once considered to be one of the best that Bordeaux has to offer, a combination of poor decisions, poor winemaking and poor finances conspired to bring this great winery to its knees.

Enter Guy Tesseron. Pontet-Canet’s knight in shining armour. This well financed and savy producer of Tesseron Cognac purchased the winery in 1975 and immediately set out to revitalize the château with new facilities, new winemaking equipment and a new attention to the quality of the grapes growing in its vineyards. The most important new direction that the Tesseron family put in place at Pontet-Canet is the introduction of biodynamic farming practices in its (very large for Bordeaux) 80 hectare vineyard. This included the use of horses (instead of tractors) in the vineyard as a method of reducing soil compaction.

While the rest of Bordeaux is patiently waiting to see the results of what has been termed Pontet-Canet’s grand experiment, I can tell you that the 2006 vintage that I tasted had depth and complexity well deserving of it place as a “super 2nd”. Even critics like Parker and James Suckling agree that the quality of Château Pontet-Canet has improved dramatically since the Tesseron family took over. The 2006 Château Pontet-Canet was incredibly deep ruby in colour with aromas of blackcurrants, plum, blackberries, cedar, cigar box, spice and anise. Not surprisingly, a lot of these flavours carry themselves on the palette and last long into the finish.

Château Pontet-Canet was an amazing place and hopefully will be held up as an example of sound vineyard and winemaking practices for the rest of Bordeaux. In fact, even Chateau Latour has set aside a small plot to conduct their own biodynamic experiment. In Bordeaux it’s one small step at a time.

Stay tuned….next stop Château Latour for the first day of harvest.

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Posted by on September 15, 2011 in France


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