Owner: Alfred Tesseron
Classification: 5ème Cru Classé
Vineyard area: 81 hectares
Average annual production: 240,000 bottles p/a
Standard blend: 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Cabernet Franc, 33% Merlot, and 2% Petit Verdot
Other wines: Les Hauts de Pontet (240,000 bottles p/a)
From a prestigious Pauillac to a lowly table wine (and back again), Pontet Canet’s past is a mélange of distinction and decline. The chateau dates back to the early 18th century when the royal governor of the Medoc, Jean-Francois de Pontet, merged several vineyard plots in Pauillac. After his death, the governor’s descendents continued to buy up neighbouring properties, creating an estate that early records indicate was known as Canet, or Canet de Pontet. For several years the chateau was nurtured by Pierre-Bernard de Pontet, who established a reputation for high-quality wines. Following his death, the wine was formerly classified as a 5th growth, and ten years later the estate was sold to Herman Cruse.
Under Cruse’s direction, Pontet Canet enjoyed a brief period of prosperity and growth, but his death gave way to intense decline. The wine was eventually sold as a table wine in French railway carriages – a new low for the once great chateau. In 1973 the situation worsened as the house of Cruse was accused of fraud (leading one member of the family to commit suicide), although the charges were dropped two years later.
Following the court case, the family sold the chateau to Guy Tesseron –the owner of Chateau Lafon-Rochet. Gradually, he and his son, Alfred, dusted off the estate’s once-esteemed reputation and today it is generally considered to have reached a new level of quality, entering the realm of the Super Seconds. The family has also instituted 100% bio-dynamic farming at Pontet Canet.
Pontet Canet 2009
The 2009 vintage is a blend of 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 4% Cabernet Franc, and 1% Petit Verdot. Its alcohol is listed as 13%.
Having steadily improved in quality since 1994, Pontet Canet is now arguably comparable to great wines such as Pavie Macquin and Palmer. The latest vintage was rated highly by Jancis Robinson (18/20) – “Something of Lafite’s complexity and integrity. Plus Mouton’s richness.” – and the Wine Spectator (95-98), with James Molesworth awarding it 96 points and describing it as “amazingly expressive”.
The latest vintage was released this week at 72 €/b – up 7.4% on 2008 (€43 p/b) and 53.2% on 2005 (€47 p/b). Since then, prices have surged on the back of strong demand and limited availability, hitting a high of £1,080. The 2009 is by far the most expensive vintage of the decade and has boosted back vintage trade considerably. 2008 in particular has benefited, having jumped from £595 to £695.
The chart below shows the current price of recent Pontet Canet vintages (2000-2009) alongside their original London release. Most vintages have enjoyed strong price appreciation, although none are currently priced within 25% of the 2009.
Those on the look out for more modestly priced vintages may want to consider the 2003 (£435, 95+) or even the (underrated) 2001 (£350).
So, can we consider Pontet Canet a Super Second? The average price of the vintages in the above chart is £478, which puts it ahead of Pichon Baron (£463) and only a whisker behind Leoville Barton (£523) . The prices of their 2009s, however, remain to be seen…