Jean-François de Pontet had made a name for himself at the court in
Versailles, where he had held the position of Grand Ecuyer (Master of
the Horse) to Louis XV. Upon his return to Guyenne, he became Governor
of the Médoc. In 1705, he purchased a few acres of land to the north of
the village of Pauillac, which he turned into a vineyard. A few years
later, he added several parcels in a place called Canet. As was the
custom at the time, he added his own name to that of his land in order
to give his estate a recognisable identity. A century later, Château
Pontet-Canet was flourishing and became one of the select few to join
the famous 1855 classification, which had been ordered by Napoleon III.
1865, the estate changed hands for the first time and became the
property of a wine merchant, Herman Cruse. The Cruse family kept the
estate for 110 years, until 1975, when it was acquired by Guy Tesseron, a
cognac merchant. Over the course of three centuries, Château
Pontet-Canet has known only three owners, three families... A rarity
indeed in the Médoc.
everything, start afresh and erase old habits in order to re-connect
with nature, be born anew … Alfred Tesseron and his team, led by
Jean-Michel Comme, Pontet-Canet’s régisseur (estate manager) since
1989, have completely transformed both the vineyard and the identity of
Château Pontet-Canet. Leaving behind conventional vinegrowing
techniques in order to embrace organic and biodynamic methods, they have
allowed the terroir to reclaim its origins; the vines seem liberated
and the grapes have never been more beautiful. The wines of Pontet-Canet
have progressed so much that they are now among the most prestigious in
family's avowed ambition is to pass on the history of Château
Pontet-Canet and secure its future. Today, it is Guy Tesseron’s
descendants who own the estate: Alfred and his nieces Mélanie and
Philippine, daughters of his late brother Gérard. Together, they have
the same outlook. Alfred shares his vision of the estate with Mélanie,
passing on to her its traditions, his outlook on vinegrowing and his
passion for wine. The future looks bright...
A shared state of
mind and a particular sensitivity are the key factors which have
propelled Château Pontet-Canet to the summit of Bordeaux wines in recent
years. They are the expression of the Tesseron family’s quiet
determination to ensure continuity over the long term.
Slowly but surely, since 1990 the vines at Pontet-Canet have experienced a cultural revolution.
new paths in order to get as close to nature as possible. Remembering
that the vine is an unruly creeper, but at the same time that its
behaviour is in no way due to chance. With time, one fact became clear:
progress in viticulture can come only from observation and experiment.
You have to know how to watch the vine in order to feel it.
development is of course part of the process of discovering another
world, a different way of seeing. Acquiring a new sensibility involves
constant risk-taking, trying things out and then finding that they are
self-evident. It is never a one-size-fits-all strategy, but rather a
matter of following the vines according to the identity of each parcel,
taking a long-term view. Choices are the fruit not of intuition, but of a
fine analysis of the elements of nature. It is painstaking work. Each
decision becomes a stepping-stone in the never-ending quest for the
ideal Pauillac wine.
2004, the year of the first biodynamic trial which took place on 14
hectares, the wines were radiant, tighter and brighter. Alfred urged
Jean-Michel to go further. The estate was fully converted to biodynamic
agriculture. This decision became a commitment and a challenge, but also
a first for a Médoc Classified Growth.
Since then, with each
vintage comes new knowledge, furthering the understanding of the terroir
in a profound way. The vine’s resistance to disease is better known
today, the understanding of how different parcels behave has improved,
always in keeping with biodynamic principles. It requires sincerity,
pragmatism and transparency: in a nutshell, absolute dedication.
wines of Château Pontet-Canet obtained organic certification from
Ecocert and biodynamic certification from Biodyvin in 2010 and from
Demeter in 2014.
2008, three Breton draft horses arrived at Pontet-Canet in order to
work in the vineyard, avoiding compaction of the soils and encouraging
the roots to do their work. Their arrival started a revolution which has
required constant effort, teaching us for example how to live side by
side with these docile yet powerful animals.
Since then, the
number of horses has steadily increased so that more and more parcels of
vines can be tended without having to use tractors. Neither a step back
in time nor a quest for folklore, it is a real vision of the future
which involves adapting the work of the horses to modern times.
is of course a challenge which brings us closer to nature and allows us
to further our policy of respecting the vines and our terroir. The
sound of hooves in the courtyard has only just begun.
into the vineyards and tasting the grapes has become the key to
evaluating maturity. Terroir is embodied in the skin of a perfectly ripe
berry. Seeking precision, caring for details and defining optimum
maturity are all part of a balancing act to find the perfect medium
between overripe and not ripe enough. You can taste when a berry is
ripe. As Jean-Michel Comme likes to say, “taste is our stock-in-trade.”On
the strategic side, parcel harvesting has long been outgrown and
replaced by "homogenous terroir" harvesting, a technique which involves
dividing the parcels into two or three sub-parts. Each year brings its
own truth, there is no immutable harvest: everything depends on how the
grapes ripen.Harvesters collect the bunches in small crates, which ensure that the grapes stay whole.
are then hand-sorted a first time, destemmed and hand-sorted a second
time on a vibrating table for a final check, ensuring that only perfect
grapes are kept.
1895, Théophile Skawinski, estate manager at the time, created a
revolutionary vat-house with oak vats fed by gravity with the help of a
wooden platform on the first floor which could move around on rails.
has taken up the idea again more recently, renovating the vat-house and
adapting it to modern times. The Nicole vat-house was inaugurated in
2005, following the same principles and featuring small conical concrete
oak and concrete is part of the quest for quality, as they ensure
excellent thermal inertia during the making of red wines with ageing
Understanding the grapes, revealing the terroir from which they originate...
response to a vinegrowing method which refuses to force the grapes, the
vinification process also respects them. Letting things happen as
naturally as possible has become the rule, with natural yeast and
minimal intervention. Maceration lasts four weeks on average before the
wine is run off.
Each vat is the embodiment of an intimate
encounter between man and terroir. Technology is neither necessary nor
desirable, as only taste can guide choices and reveal the emotional
subtleties of a great terroir treated with respect
Pontet-Canet, the ultimate goal of the maturation process is
transparency, trying never to hide what the vines have produced. The
proportion of new oak has consistently diminished in order to limit the
impact of oak on the wines.
this end, trials were conducted over the course of a few years and have
led to the arrival of a hundred concrete dolia (amphorae), used to
mature about a third of the wine. They were designed by Pontet-Canet for
the estate’s wines. As the ultimate link between the wine and its
terroir, the wall of each dolium contains a small amount of soil from
the vineyard. They ensure respect for the purity of the fruit and the
truth of the place where it originates.
Taste alone decides how long the wines are matured.