Today sees the first major release from the Left Bank of Bordeaux in the 2019 En Primeur campaign. The highly regarded Chateau Pontet-Canet, the over-achieving Fifth Growth that borders Chateau Mouton Rothschild.
With a 98-99 point score from James Suckling just announced, the price of this top Pauillac producer looks seriously favourable at 30% below the 97-98 point scoring 2018 release.
The property, owned by the Tesseron family since 1975, has made huge investments in both the vineyard and winery over the last 40 years. Since 2004, the vineyards have been farmed organically and biodynamically, with both receiving certification in 2010. For the Chateau, the result in the glass is the purest expression of their terroir. Ever since this transition, the quality of the wines has got better and better, forcing the team to pay more attention to each and every detail that goes into grape growing and wine production. According to Justine Tesseron, the quality of the 2019 is the amalgamation of all the work carried out over these years.
For the estate, 2019 was a very special vintage. The yields were back to normal (after 2018 which was a very small crop with two thirds lost). It was the first time that all the sorting and de-stemming was done 100% by hand, with no machines or electronics used at all. Even no pump for pumping-over. As there were no noise at all in the cellar, people were singing while sorting and de-stemming.
Although we have yet to taste the 2019 ourselves, The Wine Advocate's Lisa Perrotti-Brown suggests this is "a milestone vintage" for the estate, with Justine Tesseron describing it as “very elegant, with notes of flowers, very silky tannins, lots of aromas… a very pure wine. A wine that gives me some emotion!”
Clear Pauillac character in terms of its tannic structure, overlaid with the Pontet signature of recent vintages that translates into spirals of peony and iris alongside brambled hedgerow. As it settles, coffee bean and tobacco adds a charred character alongside blackberry and cassis puree. It opens extremely slowly, with so many subtle nuances that gather in confidence. The tannins have unmistakeable Pauillac strength, but the structure and the subtlety of this wine is Pontet-Canet, with the amphoras having an influence in terms of the tannins feeling less silky than they do in many of the appellation's biggest wines, but still with swagger.
Back to a normal yield after the difficulties in 2018 with mildew that saw production drop to 12hl/ha. This is the last vintage under Jean-Michel Comme, technical director and estate manager for past 32 years. He has been replaced by Mathieu Bessonnet who has spent the last 15 years with Michel Chapoutier on his (also biodynamically farmed) estates in Australia and Alsace and who was, they tell me, selected by Comme who chose him and worked with him.
100% 1st wine, as it has been for the past four years. 50% will be aged in new oak barrel, 15% one year, 40% in amphoras. This is a two-point score under the 2016, because it doesn't have the concentration of that exceptional vintage, but it's an excellent Pontet, full of vigour.
Manual punching down across the entire production.
Decanter (May 2001) Score: 96/100 Drink 2028-2044
|6x75cl||-||0 Immediate | 46 Marketplace||£524.00|
|3xMags||-||0 Immediate | 4 Marketplace||£524.00|
|Bts||-||0 Immediate | 2 Marketplace||£90.00|
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"A very tight, compact red that shows wonderful precision and definition with lots of blackberries, blueberries, stones and black tea. The sorting and de-stemming was all done by hand. Love the sensibility to this. Superb length and finesse. Subtle and sophisticated. No pumping over and gentle pushing down. Handmade. Very exciting and thought-provoking. Very long. 35% in amphora and the rest in 50% new oak and 15% one-year oak. 65% cabernet sauvignon and 30% merlot, the rest cabernet franc and petit verdot. Biodynamic grapes."
98-99 Points - James Suckling