Château Pontet-Canet continues its run of form with an extremely seductive and open Pauillac in 2012. There is something Burgundian about the wine and the set up here, with the emphasis on the vineyard and the impressive bio-dynamic regime established over a number of years. Little wonder this wine is the darling of the markets, delivering flavour and quality at a comparative fraction of Pauillac’s established [and in certain cases] neighbouring heavyweights. It’s also human thing too, for all the fashionable talk of terroir. Alfred Tesseron and his family come across as genuine, open, warm-hearted people and part of that spirit rubs off on what you find in the glass. It’s called soul, and their wines have it.
The 2012 growing season was a clearly challenge but there’s a lot of viticultural know-how at Pontet-Canet built up over the years of developing their organic and now bio-dynamic approach. It’s all about equilibrium and the long-term view. It stands to reason that a healthy, balanced vineyard will be more naturally resilient than one that isn’t. The key, they say, is to actively stay ahead of the problems rather than just fire-fighting. That sounds a bit facile but it’s all in the attention to detail. The treatments here are plant-based rather than chemical ones, some of the spraying was done on a hand-held plot by plot basis. Overall cultivation is increasingly gentle and horses now work 40 % of the estate.
Of course, bio-dynamics can’t do much about the heavy rain that arrived in late September before the harvest of the Merlot [October 4 onwards], but at least it delivered sufficiently ripe fruit with robust skins that remained intact. The poor forecasts also encouraged them to provision for a third sorting line [keeping one step ahead] so that as the Cabernet harvest began [October 11 onwards] they could speed up the picking and process in parallel but retain a high degree of scrutiny in the cellar [important in a vintage where botrytis was an increasing risk as the vintage progressed]. The harvest was completed on October 17 and the musts lightly extracted. The wine will receive 50% new oak and a proportion will be aged in new clay amphorae which sit in the cellar like something from Ridley Scott’s Alien film.
Pontet-Canet released early. At 10% down on 2011 it looks an OK bet en primeur but you are in no hurry and a number of physically available vintages like 2008 and 2004 are around that can be had for prices similar or less. Still, there’s an extremely healthy global following for the property and the prices is reasonable value for the quality, even if practically unchanged on last year. It can be found on various merchant’s lists at around £690 [$1070] per 12.
Deep colour; very healthy looking; saturated blackcurrant aromas; cassis; little lift from the oak; black cherry notes too; very attractive and open; reminiscent of their 2011 [one of the red wines of the vintage for me last year]; lots of depth to the palate; real blackcurrant purity; clean and precise on the finish with freshness. Not overdone in the slightest. Excellent length. Tasted at Chateau Pontet-Canet April, 12, 2013. 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot. 93-95+