Friday, June 1, 2012

Tasting with Alfred Tesseron the last 10 Vintages of Château Pontet-Canet in Washington DC, USA/France

Picture: Christian G.E. Schiller and Alfred Tesseron

We had a chance to taste the 2000 vintage all the way through to the 2009, a wine recently awarded 100 points from Robert Parker in The Wine Advocate. The wines of Chateau Pontet-Canet wines were accompanied by the food of Todd Gray (Equinox) and Xavier Deshayes (Ronald Reagan Building). The tasting was led by the winemaker and owner of Chateau Pontet-Canet himself, Alfred Tesseron. These days the general consensus is that 5th growth en 1855 Chateau Pontet-Canet holds its own amongst the super seconds – those chateaux of 2nd growth status that rival the elite 1st growths.

Pictures: Christian G.E. Schiller, Ed Sands and Michael Sands


Chateau Pontet-Canet has been owned by just three families over the last 3 centuries: originally Jean Francois de Pontet in the 18th Century, then the Cruse family for 110 years during the 19th and 20th centuries and now (since 1975) the Tesseron family.

Pictures: Alfred Tesseron

Chateau Pontet-Canet was established by Jean-François de Pontet in the early 18th century and expanded by his descendants to include adjoining vineyards in the lieu-dit Canet. 10 years following the 1855 classification, Chateau Pontet-Canet was purchased by an important Bordeaux négociant, Herman Cruse, in whose family the estate remained for many years.  The Bordeaux wine fraud scandal in 1973 forced the sale in 1975 of Pontet-Canet to Cognac merchant Guy Tesseron, who had bought Château Lafon-Rochet earlier. Chateau Pontet-Canet is currently owned and managed by Guy’s son, Alfred (who we met in Washington DC), assisted by Jean-Michel Comme. Alfred’s daughter Melanie Tesseron also has a hand in the estate.

Chateau Pontet-Canet

Located directly across from the Chateau Mouton-Rothschild in Pauillac, Chateau Pontet-Canet has the largest production (20,000 cases) of any classified growth. It also produces about 20,000 cases of its second wine, Château Les Hauts de Pontet.

The wines ferment in 6 to 8 days and receive an additional 9 to 15 days of skin contact.  The vats are a mixture of stainless steel, cement and oak.  They are cooled during fermentation by the circulation of water.  The wine is aged in oak barrels for 15 to 20 months.  Half of the casks are replaced each year.  A traditional egg white fining takes place before bottling.

Winemaking Philosophy

Pictures: Alfred Tesseron

It is in the vineyard, where the Tesserons probably have most made their mark in Bordeaux, through the application of biodynamic principals.  Alfred Tesseron has spent the best part of the last 10 years converting to organic and biodynamic viticultural practices. In 2010, Chateau Pontet Canet became the first major Bordeaux wine producer to earn the official Agence Bio (AB) organic certification.

Pictures: Annette Schiller and Alfred Tesseron

While many chateaux welcome new technology, Alfred Tesseron moves in the opposite direction. The chateau utilizes no computers to make harvesting or fermentation decisions. According to Alfred Tesseron, Pontet Canet does not perform any computer analysis until the wine is finished. Also, in the vineyards, he uses horses instead of machinery for some of the blocks. For the 2010 vintage, Alfred Tesseron added numerous rows of Nomblot  to his wine cellar for fermentation. These concrete eggs were created in a joint venture between concrete vat manufacturer Nomblot and Michel Chapoutier. Remarkably, in the vineyard Alfred Tesseron is now moving away from green harvesting, a method for controlling yields and quality in the vineyard. Alfred Tesseron also has put an end to leaf-thinning.

The Dinner

Pictures: Todd Gray (Equinox) - on the right side - and Xavier Deshayes (Ronald Reagan Building)


Passed Hors d ’Oeuvres

Ricotta Beignets with Pancetta and Truffle
Tartare of Kobe Beef with Salsify Chips
Warm Oyster with Caviar Hollandaise
Pan Seared Duck Liver, Caramelized Onion and Fig Chutney


Amuse Bouche: Mustard Cavatelli Pasta with Maine Lobster, Black Trumpet Mushrooms and Hazelnut Veloute

First Course: Pan Roasted Monkfish Loin with Veal Bolognese, Calypso Beans and Braised Celery

Second Course: Seared Duck Breast with Fennel Sausage, Sweetbreads and Nicoise Olive Chicken Jus

Third Course: Pan Seared Beef Tenderloin with Bell Pepper Piperade, Roasted Fingerling Potatoes, Bordelaise Sauce

Fourth Course: Persiallade Crusted Loin of Lamb Flageolet Beans, Porcini Mushrooms, Tomato "Charcuterie" Sauce

Cheese Course: Chef's selection of cheeses, Tesseron Cognac and Sweets

Château Pontet-Canet: 2000 to 2009

2000 Château Pontet-Canet - Beautiful cassis nose, polished texture, good depth of fruit, good complexity elegant, long finish, perhaps 10 years from its peak.

2001 Château Pontet-Canet- Appealing nose, pleasing but not too complex, relatively light, short finish.

2002 Château Pontet-Canet - Beautiful nose, balanced, elegant, an excellent wine for what is not known as a good vintage, like the 2002 better than the 2001.

2003 Château Pontet-Canet - Restrained nose, the fruit is on the ripe and plumy side, acidity is rather muted, long finish dominated by tannin.

2004 Château Pontet-Canet - Very full and pleasing palate, lengthy finish.

2005 Château Pontet-Canet - Cabernet Sauvignon 70%, Merlot 25%, Cabernet Franc 4%, Petit Verdot 1%, exotic, spicy nose, the palate is very full, rich fruit, good substance and weight, powerful wine, long finish.

2006 Château Pontet-Canet - Tight on the nose, full mouth, but not as much body as the 2005

2007 Château Pontet-Canet - Full bodied with round tannins, soft finish.

2008 Château Pontet-Canet - A more robust, succulent wine, vigorous fruit, the palate is tannic and firm, big finish.

2009 Château Pontet-Canet - Cabernet Sauvignon 65%, Merlot 30%, 4% Cabernet Franc, 1% Petit Verdot. 60% new oak. Concentrated fruit on the nose, creamy, rich and substantial, long and rich finish, very impressive wine.

Pictures: 2009 Château Pontet-Canet

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  1. Sehr geehrter Herr Schiller,

    welchen der verkosteten Pontet-Jahrgänge können Sie aus Preis/Genußgesichtspunkten empfehlen?

    Freundliche Grüße

    r. schneider

  2. Die Preise haben bei der Probe ueberhaupt keine Rolle gespielt und deshalb faellt es mir schwer, Ihnen aus dieser Perspektive einen oder mehrere Jahrgaenge zu empfehlen.

    Beste Gruesse

    Dr. Christian Schiller