You will not find a much better example of how times have changed in Bordeaux in recent years, in the late 20th and early 21st centuries than the tale of Pontet Canet.
Classified in 1855 as a lowly 5th Growth, despite its proximity to such exalted estates Mouton Rothschild and Lafite it made some very underwhelming wines for years, overly tannic, lean, mean….at once stage during the mid-20th century it was reduced to nothing more than a brand name for a lowly non-vintage table wine for serving in the dining cars of the French railways. It was a victim of high yields, poor winemaking, lacking any real parental guidance. Unlike its aristocratic neighbours Pontet-Canet was the poor relative.
But this all changed in 1975 when it was bought by a famous Cognac family, the Tesserons. Guy didn’t at first have the money to turn it around, and continued to make fairly ordinary wines, albeit superior to many early offerings.
The real change came about in the late 80s when Guy’s son Alfred Tesseron, the current owner, embarked on a programme of improvement including green harvesting, parcel vinification, work in the vineyard, replanting, improved cleanliness in the cellar and so forth.
Most commentators and merchants will point to the 1994 vintage as the turnaround year. Parker’s famous quote goes as follows…”Readers should take note that the Tesseron family is making major efforts to rebuild the image of Pontet-Canet and establish it as one of the finest wines of the northern Medoc. Quality has soared since the 1994 vintage” and gave it 91 points. We sold about 200cs en primeur for GBP 115/cs IB. We sold out of the 2009 at GBP 1100/cs earlier this year – that had a Parker score of 97-100 points. (Mouton 96-98+). Job done.
Recently I put together the following vertical for some HK enthusiasts. Here are my scores.
Ch Pontet Canet 1995 89+
This can definitely been approached now. Nice and easy. (Parker 92/100)
Ch Pontet Canet 1996 93
The 1996 comprehensively outclassed the 1995. (Amazingly Parker gives it the same score as the 1995)
Ch Pontet Canet 2000 93
I think expectations were probably too high. Good wine but didn’t outclass the 2001 as we suspected it would. (Parker 94+)
Ch Pontet Canet 2001 92
The surprise package – a truly excellent showing for the 2001. Bravo. (Parker gives it 89/100).
Ch Pontet Canet 2003 95
This is a 2003 that you don’t have to attack too soon. Will age gracefully for many years. (Parker and I agree here – same score)
Ch Pontet Canet 2005 97
Wine of the night. Huge long life ahead but given 3 hours in a decanter you can see the class oozing out. (Parker 96+)