Château Pontet-Canet

Château Pontet-Canet

This large, fifth growth estate is very well placed next to Mouton Rothschild, but it has only really moved up a gear under the direction of Alfred Tesseron and his technical director Jean-Michel Comme, with the 2000 vintage.

For 110 years it was owned by the merchant house Cruse, after they purchased it from the descendants of its founder, Jean-François de Pontet, who had been the governor of Médoc in the 18th century. Under the Cruses' ownership the wine was widely distributed, but only occasionally made memorably good wine, until 1975 when it was bought by the Tesseron family from Cognac. Current generation Alfred is also assisted by his niece, Melanie.

The vineyards are south of Mouton Rothschild and d’Armhailac, and significantly bigger in area, covering 81 hectares. Vines have an average age of 40 to 45 years, and are planted on the poor, well-draining Garonne gravel soils which are typical of some of the best properties in the region. Tesseron practised green harvesting to reduce the crop from 1997, and began using only natural fertiliser and no herbicides. Now almost half of the vines are harvested using horses rather than tractors.

A new vat room was installed in 2005, based on the property's 19th century vat room, which allowed the grapes to drop into the vats using just gravity, avoiding pumping. Alfred also took the decision to use only concrete vats for maceration, after which the wine spends 18 months in oak barrels, up to two thirds of them new.

The blend is generally 62% cabernet sauvignon, 32% merlot, 5% cabernet franc and 1% petit verdot. The wine has become one of the most vibrant and intriguing wines in Pauillac, though not easy to taste when young, and always benefitting from being decanted. It can be kept for between 12 and 40 years.