Pontet-Canet may just be the hottest Chateau in Bordeaux today. The fact that it is not a second growth, third, or even a fourth makes no difference. Alfred Tesseron, who took ownership in 1994, is determined to make Pontet-Canet one of the top Chateau in Bordeaux. At a recent tasting, guided by Alfred Tesseron himself, we explored ten vintages of this amazing wine. What was most interesting was to witness first-hand how the property, the wine and the man behind the scenes have evolved over a 12-year period.
Located just south of Mouton Rothschild, Alfred Tesseron saw great potential in the vineyards of Pontet-Canet. With the help of director Jean-Michel Comme, who Tesseron speaks very highly of, they set off to establish a “hands-off” approach, which has now grown into a fully biodynamic operation. This didn’t happen overnight, and as you taste through the vintages of 2000 through 2012, the differences become quite obvious.
One of the major changes during this time was a steady transition toward Biodynamics, which started in 2004 with just 14 hectares. As of 2005, this approach spread to a total of 24 hectares. The only vintage where they were forced to spray (to prevent rot) was in 2008, yet Pontet-Canet immediately picked up the ball in following vintages and are now both organic and Biodynamic-certified.
Alfred Tesseron credits most of his success to the changes in the vineyards. Today, the vines are all tended by hand with an entire workforce, which is employed year-round, to assure a consistency of knowledgeable workers with a connection to the land. What’s more, Alfred Tesseron uses horses, which have not completely replaced the use of machinery in the vineyards, yet plans are underway to assure that they one day will. The use of horses benefits the soil, hence the vines and cover crops, by not impacting the soil, which allows for more oxygenation and promotes the growth of beneficial microorganisms.
In the winery, a focus is being set on purity of fruit, and allowing the terroir of Pontet-Canet to continue its affect on the wine throughout the aging process. As of the 2011 vintage, as much as 33% of the unfinished wine was being aged in Amaphore, which was made using the soils of the vineyard, a mix of gravel, and limestone. According to Alfred Tesseron, this percentage will continue to rise, as he’s been incredibly happy with the results. What’s more, the goal is to make the wine that each vintage provides them, and not to use any winemaking wizardry, which might block vintage characteristics.
In the end, all eyes are on Pontet-Canet. It’s the fifth growth that often rivals the top houses of Bordeaux. Their pioneering methods are being adopted across the appellation, and as we’ve seen from recent great vintages, there seems to be no limits to what this house is capable of. My impression of Alfred Tesseron is that he may be one of the most open-minded producers of Bordeaux that I’ve ever encountered, and remains firmly set in his new mission to keep Pontet-Canet one of the top Chateau in Bordeaux.
On to the tasting notes:
2000 Château Pontet-Canet – The nose was dark yet very pretty, with crushed red berry, hints of herbs, savory reduction, and airy citrus notes providing lift. On the palate, I found soft yet engaging textures with notes of tart cherry, autumnal spice, and slight bitter berry tone. This was wonderfully fresh, while remaining smooth and fun, finishing with a hint of tannin with lingering notes of cherry. (93 points)
2003 Château Pontet-Canet – The nose was, at first, dark and brooding, but it came to life with time in the glass to reveal dried red fruits, balsamic tones, dark soil and minerals with a hint of undergrowth. On the palate, it was unbelievably smooth, with medium-bodied textures giving way to ripe red fruits and a hint of sweet herbs. The finish showed remnants of tannic grip with notes of cherry liquor and red licorice, yet a slight lingering heat detracted to a small degree. (91 points)
2005 Château Pontet-Canet – The nose was dark and rich, showing intense red berry, minerals, soil, herbs, cedar and tobacco. Still incredibly youthful on the palate with firm textures moving in dense waves across the senses, giving only a brief glimpse of this wine’s massive dark red fruits, spice, herbal tea tones, minerals and soil. The Ponet Canet’s structure remained in control throughout the finish, yet there’s so much balance and intensity here, hence its potential. (95 points)
2006 Château Pontet-Canet – The nose showed dusty soil, hints of spice, minerals, cedar and crushed dark berries. On the palate, I found brilliant red fruits with contrastingly dense textures and building tannin. Fruit saturated the palate throughout the finish, yet it was kept in check by youthful tannin. I’m very interested in seeing where this wine will go with time in the cellar. (93 points)
2007 Château Pontet-Canet – The nose showed tart red and blue fruit with floral tones, a hint of bell pepper and dusty soil. On the palate, I found lean textures with a slight green character to its red fruit. A mix of acid and tannin buzzed across the senses, leaving notes of bitter cherry and minerals on the finish. This is not a bad wine, and it would have probably shown better if not surrounded by so many superior vintages; but on this day, it came across as the weakest wine of the tasting. (90 points)
2008 Château Pontet-Canet – With an intense nose that hinted at both the sweet and savory, the ’08 Pontet-Canet showed notes of red and blueberry, sweet spice, rich reduction sauce, and hints of moist soil tones. On the palate, I found silky textures with a medium-weight frame and a veil of ripe red and black berry fruit, which seemed to nearly mask its youthful tannins, while notes of spice, graphite and a hint of citrus saturated the senses. This lasted long throughout the finish, as its fruit slowly faded into fine tannin. This is a dark beast of wine, yet elegant and in need of time in the cellar. This should be amazing in 5-10 years’ time. (93 points)
2009 Château Pontet-Canet – This is a truly stunning young Pontet-Canet, with its large, dark persona, yet it somehow remained cool toned and wonderfully fresh. The nose displayed crushed dark berry, floral tones, and a hint of pine, minerals and smoke. It was like velvet on the palate, with underlying sweet tannin, showing rich dark fruits, balsamic tones, spice and baker’s chocolate. The finish was long with saturating fruit, which slowly faded to reveal a zing of acidity and young tannic spine. (97 points)
2010 Château Pontet-Canet – The nose was beautiful, with cool, restrained dark fruits, floral perfumes, earth tones and a hint of menthol. On the palate, I found silky textures with a dense, massive wave of dark red, blueberry fruits and minerals, which seemed to envelope its youthful tannins. The finish was almost completely shut down with dried-out dark fruits held tight by imposing structure. I imagine 2010 Pontet-Canet may outlive me. (94 points)
2011 Château Pontet-Canet – The nose was dark, almost sappy, with intense pine, cedar and menthol, followed by floral perfumes and crushed raspberry fruit. On the palate, it was rich with silky textures, giving way to young tannin. A mix of tart wild berry saturated the senses with a gorgeous sense of balance throughout. The fruit here lingered long upon the senses with hints of inner floral tones and tannin. (91 points)
2012 Château Pontet-Canet – The nose came across as compact, yet aching to explode, showing rich black fruits, airy spice, violet florals, a hint of grapefruit and bell pepper. On the palate, I found firm, palate-staining wild berry fruits and herbal tones with silky textures giving way to tannin. The finish was long with lean dark fruits and inner floral tones in a very chiseled expression—yet the slightly green characteristics here reminded me more of a cool-climate Cabernet, not Pontet-Canet. (91 points)
Click HERE, for multiple vintages of Pontet-Canet available at Morrell Wine.
Article and Tasting Notes by: Eric Guido