Wine Words & Video Tape

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Bordeaux 2016: Château Pontet-Canet

Written by JW. Posted in Bordeaux

Another beauty has been made here at Château Pontet-Canet in 2016. This is the twelfth vintage that the Pauillac property has used biodynamic practices. Pontet-Canet leads the way in Bordeaux in this vision of a holistic, balanced approach to winegrowing. The results speak for themselves. 2016 was also, remarkably, the fortieth vintage undertaken by Alfred Tesseron. If the renaissance of Pontet-Canet has been his life’s work, it has also been that of his right hand man, the fascinating Jean-Michel Comme. Once again they have harnessed the characteristics of Pontet Canet’s terroir to produce a pure, harmonious Pauillac with the most glorious texture. It represents the entire harvest. No second wine was produced. If you can afford it, buy it.

The approach here is really interesting. In the cellar, each vintage becomes gentler and gentler. They say they are looking for silence in the vatroom. The philosophy of minimal intervention extends to elévage – this only year 55% new oak, with 35% ageing in the beautiful concrete amphorae and the remainder in one-year old oak. The result is the purest imaginable wine. The 2016 Pontet-Canet has the most beguiling blackcurrant cassis aromatics. There is great depth and the silkiest tannins. It is a wonder. This is not simply the product of the gentle vinification, but the beautiful quality of fruit coming from the vineyard. The steady ability of the vines to draw strength and resilience from the biodynamic approach has paid its own dividends. It enabled the property to face the challenges that the wet weather produced in the first half of the 2016 growing season without resorting to chemical treatments.

Bio-dynamically farmed vineyards at Pontet-Canet

The other fascinating development is the California adventure that the Tesserons have embarked upon with Jean-Michel Comme high in the hills of the Napa Valley. I gather that the family had already been looking for a project in the Napa but the idea came to fruition after Jean-Michel had made a recent trip with his family to the region. ‘Some part of me had always remained in the Napa,’ Jean-Michel told me during primeurs this April, speaking wistfully of his time there as a young cellar rat at Pine Ridge Vineyards in 1986. This recent trip rekindled his yearning to return in some way and the project has since taken shape, with the Tesseron’s purchasing a 600 acre plot high up in the Mount Veeder district. The winemaking project is centered on the small 18 acre Pym-Rae vineyard established by the late Robin Williams. The first vintage made in the most artisanal manner [there was little more than a cave for a winery] is wild and robust. It bodes well and reminded me of some of the early Cabernets that Randy Dunn made at Howell Mountain. It looks to be a fascinating adventure for the Tesserons in California.

The following wines were tasted at Château Pontet-Canet on Monday 4 April, 2017.

Château Pontet-Canet, Grand Cru Classé, Pauillac, 2016

Deep and healthy looking; beautiful cassis aromatics; sings from the glass; real purity; lift from the Cabernet Franc; excellent; unadorned and attractive; soft entry but with blackcurrant cassis tones; real roundness and harmony; lovely texture; vibrant on the palate; deep. Wonderful stuff. [60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot, 55% new oak, 35% concrete and 10% one year old oak]. Tasted 3/4/17. Drink 2024-2040. 97-100

Tesseron Estate, Pym-Rae, Napa Valley, 2016

Mid-depth; like the blackcurrant style; tobacco; spices and wild herbs; pure fruit with tannic profile; chewy finish; quite artisan style. Reminds me of some of the early Dunn bottlings. Promising. [75% Cabernet Sauvignon, 18% Merlot, 7% Cabernet Franc. 18 acres planted in 1990, 25,000 bottles made]. Tasted 3/4/17. Drink 2022-2030. 90+


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