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1996 Pontet Canet

1996 Pontet Canet

93 VM

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Featured Review
The second bottle, from an estate I know like the back of my hand, was the 1996 Pontet Canet. One or two people had suggested that this might be past its best; after all, it predates the innovations and application of biodynamics overseen by Alfred Tesseron by several years. On the contrary, it has aged beautifully. Cedar, scorched earth and mint blossomed on a nose that is firmly into its secondary phase, yet laden with more fruit than expected considering both its age and the austere style of Left Bank 1996s. The palate might be nearing the end of its drinking plateau, so don’t hold back if you own a few bottles. But I admired its balance and density, its structure and classicism, and the typical Pauillac traits of cedar and a touch of mint toward the finish. I savored it down to the last drop. Vinous Media

Vinous (Galloni) | 93 VM

Critic Reviews

The second bottle, from an estate I know like the back of my hand, was the 1996 Pontet Canet. One or two people had suggested that this might be past its best; after all, it predates the innovations and application of biodynamics overseen by Alfred Tesseron by several years. On the contrary, it has aged beautifully. Cedar, scorched earth and mint blossomed on a nose that is firmly into its secondary phase, yet laden with more fruit than expected considering both its age and the austere style of Left Bank 1996s. The palate might be nearing the end of its drinking plateau, so don’t hold back if you own a few bottles. But I admired its balance and density, its structure and classicism, and the typical Pauillac traits of cedar and a touch of mint toward the finish. I savored it down to the last drop.

Vinous Media | 93 VM
I was shocked by how backward the 1996 Pontet-Canet was on the three occasions I tasted it in January. This wine possesses superb potential, but it appears a decade's worth of patience will be necessary. The color is a saturated dark purple. With coaxing, the wine offers aromas of black currant jam intertwined with minerals, sweet oak, and spice. A full-bodied wine, it possesses layered, concentrated, sweet fruit, with an elevated level of ripe tannin. Anticipated maturity: 2010-2035.

Robert Parker | 92 RP
Aromas of black licorice, currant and toasted oak. Full-bodied, with silky, refined tannins and a medium finish. Holding back still.--'95/'96 Bordeaux retrospective. Best after 2008.

Wine Spectator | 91 WS

Wine Details for 1996 Pontet Canet

Type of Wine Bordeaux Red : Picture in your mind a combination of cedar, lead pencil, blackcurrant, plum and mineral aromatics, and texture that caresses your palate like a playful lover. The experience is thrilling from the first whiff to the final seconds of a tannic, generous finish - that is what you'll get from a Bordeaux Red
Varietal Red Bordeaux Blend : The inhabitants of the Bordeaux region of France have been cultivating wine-grapes for thousands of years. Ancient Roman ruins litter the vineyards from Saint Emilion to Graves where the art of blending Bordeaux varietals has been practiced and perfected over a very long history. Bordeaux’s climate, terroir and soils, though varied, provide the optimal growing conditions for the red grape varietals planted in the region.

Rarely listed on the labels as “blend,” the red wines of Bordeaux are perhaps the most artfully designed and celebrated in the world. The calculated art of blending the native Bordeaux varietals is impressively accomplished in the most famous winegrowing region in the world. The phrase Bordeaux Blend which seems to have been coined by British wine merchants in the 19th Century relates as much to wines made from the blend as to the grape variety combination itself.

Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and occasionally Carmenere are the lead characters in the creation of Red Bordeaux Blends. Each plays a part in their own fashion and implemented in various combinations and percentages in each appellation within Bordeaux. Red Bordeaux Blends are majorly composed of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, roughly making up 90% of all Bordeaux Blends. Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot and Malbec (occasionally Carmenere) are also important components and vital to the production of the region’s red wines.

For simplicity, the winegrowing region of Bordeaux can be divided into three main appellations producing Red Bordeaux Blends; the Left Bank (Medoc), Right Bank and Pessac-Leognan (Graves). The Left Bank has a terroir comprised of a wide variety of gravel, stones, sand, limestone and clay soils on a natural terrain of gentle slopes. This sets the stage perfectly for the production of Cabernet Sauvignon, which is the dominant grape of the Left Bank. For example, Chateau Lafite (Paulliac) is composed of 70% Cabernet Sauvignon.

The Right Bank is dominated by clay and limestone with sand and gravel, but the clay in the Right Bank is distinctly its own and adds to the health, growth and vitality of the vines of the varietals grown here. Right Bank wines are typically 80% Merlot-based, which are often denser, richer and mature earlier than those of the Left Bank (with exceptions – Petrus for example). Merlot is a vital component to Pomerol winegrowing and making. Cabernet Franc also plays a major role in the Right Bank, most notably, in Saint Emilion, where the infamous vineyards of Chateau Ausone and Chateau Cheval Blanc are planted to 55% and 52% Cabernet Franc, respectively. Chateaux that produce wines with a majority of Cabernet Franc are considered “old school” producers, but have perfected the use of Cabernet Franc, which was originally used as a blending grape.

Pessac-Leognan (Graves) enjoys a temperate climate, natural hygrometry influenced by the ocean, and has a terroir composed of gravelly soil over a clay subsoil on sloping, hilly terrain. Natural drainage due to the hilly terrain as well as the gravelly soil structure are perfectly attuned to the Cabernet Sauvignon grape vine, which prospers under these conditions. Pessac reaps the benefits of having the terroir of both the Left and Right Bank as it contains gravel and clay. The clay sub-soil allows the growth and success of Merlot, as well as Cabernet Franc. It is home to the only First Growth not in the Medoc. The 50-hectare vineyard of Haut Brion is planted to 45.4% Merlot, 43.9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 9.7% Cabernet Franc and 1% Petit Verdot.

The percentage of Petit Verdot and Malbec may be lesser in quantity, but not in quality. They are vital to the region’s creation of Red Bordeaux Blends. The combination of Bordeaux varietals is legendary in the region, around the world and has influenced winegrowers worldwide to plant and vinify wines which resemble those of Red Bordeaux Blends.

Country France : Wine is the lifeblood that courses through the country of France, pulsing with vigorous pride and determination. Viticulture is not just a hobby or an occupation in France; it is a passion, a cherished tradition that has been passed down through generations of wine stained hands. Winemaking is a beloved art that has been ingrained in the culture, an aptitude instilled in sons by fathers and the hallmark for which France’s reputation was built, allowing it to be renowned as, arguably, the most important wine producing country in the world.



For centuries, France has been producing wines of superior quality and in much greater quantity than any other country in the world. It boasts some of the most impressive wine regions, coveted vineyards and prestigious wines on earth. The regions of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Rhone, Sauternes and Champagne have become the benchmark, for which others aspire to become. Legendary producers such as Chateaux Margaux, Domaine De La Romanee Conti, Chapoutier, d’Yquem and Dom Perignon are idolized world-wide.



France has stamped its name on nearly every style of wine, from the nectar-like sweet Sauternes to hedonistic Chateauneuf Du Papes classic Bordeaux and Burgundy, to its sparkling dominance in Champagne. Many of the most infamous grape varietals in the world, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir and Chardonnay originated in France and are not only beloved, but utilized in the creation of some of the greatest wines on earth. French wine production commands the attention of the wine market year after year. With over 860,000 hectares under vine, and numbers close to 50 million hectoliters of wine produced annually, France dominates the market and sets the standard for not only product quality, but also quantity.



France’s many contributions to the world of wine have been absolutely indispensable. The country is the originator of the term “Premier Cru,” coined the term Terroir (a French term so complex there is no literal translation) and has laid the blueprint for a structured appellation system, which others have implemented in their own countries. French vineyard techniques and winemaking practices are mimicked world-wide. California vintners have been replicating Rhone style wines for decades, South America has adopted the French varietal of Malbec and countries around the world are imitating Burgundian styled Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.



With vast diversity in terroir, France is home to some of the most hospitable winegrowing locations on earth. The combination of topography, geology, climate, rainfall and even the amount of sunlight combined with the long historical tradition of winegrowing and making, has allowed the vintners of France to not only hone their skills, but learn from nature to create a product that like the world in which it resides… is very much alive.


Subregion Pauillac

Overview

Producer Chateau Pontet Canet : Situated just beneath Chateau Mouton Rothschild, in perhaps the most prestigious appellation of Bordeaux, and home to three of the five First Growths, resides Chateau Pontet Canet. With the Gironde Estuary to the East and the Atlantic to the west, famous neighbors all around and resting upon the famous Pauillac terroir, Pontet Canet is in possession of some of the most prized and coveted vineyards in the Medoc. The estate’s fame; however, is not attributed solely by its prime location, but for its long history of producing high quality wines that have consistently outperformed their Fifth Growth status.

For three centuries, Pontet Canet has witness only three ownerships, which has greatly contributed to the success and stability of the estate’s winemaking and growing. The name Pontet Canet was birthed in 1781 when Jean-Francois de Pontet merged his existing property with newly acquired vineyards in the Canet area. Following the custom of the day, he joined his surname to that of the estate, officially creating the estate we know today. A century later, Chateau Pontet-Canet was enjoying an extraordinary period of prosperity. The famous classification of 1855, ordered by Emperor Napoleon III, brought the estate recognition. Chateau Pontet Canet now figured on the list of Medoc Grands Crus Classes.

This rise to fame was quickly recognized by one of the most influential Bordeaux negociants of the time, Henri Herman Cruse, who went on to acquire the estate in 1865. Cruse’s incredible vision and understanding of the Bordeaux wine trade, implemented swift modernizations of the property’s infrastructures and hired Charles Skawinski, a highly respected estate manager, in the Medoc. Revolutionary (for the times) cellars were built which enhanced the winemaking process, and the vineyards were given greater attention. Thanks to Cruse’s tireless efforts, the wines of Pontet Canet acquired a reputation of high quality and integrity throughout the world, which would in turn, garner the attention of another Bordeaux Negociant, Guy Tesseron.

Since 1975, the Tesserons have been stewards of the land; respecting the environment, extracting only what is needed for a successful harvest with minimal intervention and an in-depth understanding of the estate’s terroir. Today, Alfred Tesseron (Guy’s son) operates under a unique philosophy, “I am not a winemaker. My team members are not winemakers either. As most of the work is done in the vineyards, we are growers. Our success and achievements at Pontet Canet are due to our efforts in the vineyards, not the winemaking. At the end of the day, our goal is to produce unique vintages of Pontet Canet that are for drinking, not just for wine tasting”. The vineyards of Pontet Canet are treasured and cared for using only organic and biodynamic farming methods. Practices respectful of the natural balances in the vineyard are implemented, such as the use of plow-horses, hand picking, the use of natural fertilizers and natural decoctions used to dust the vines. Fields of horsetail, yarrow, chamomile, dandelion, wicker and rosemary, which all possess extraordinary properties, also help to boost the vine’s defenses against harsh weather and infestation.

The 81-hectare Left Bank estate is planted to 65% Cabernet Sauvignon, 30% Merlot, 3% Cabernet Franc and 2% Petit Verdot. It is made up of around one hundred plots and 800,000 vines looking out over the Gironde Estuary. At the heart of Pontet Canet, the terroir is known as the “plateau”, a gentle broad outcrop of Garonne gravel soil dating back to the Gunz era that sits on a bedrock of limestone. This poor, well-drained soil is renowned for being particularly suited to the character of great Cabernet Sauvignon, which makes up over 60% of the Grand Vin. Some of the plots in this location were planted at the end of the 1940s and very deep-rooted, producing the finest quality grapes. There are still a great many of these old vines, and the average age of the vineyard is 50 years.

Another plot of the vineyard, located near the river, is composed of chalkier soils. In some areas the limestone can be seen on the surface and in others clay shows through. These cooler, richer soils are better suited to Merlot and produce wines that are more structured and fleshy in texture. To establish a link with the viticultural past, four plots located on the edge of the outcrop have been planted with the Petit Verdot variety, which brings spicy aromas to the Pontet-Canet “grand vin”. Cabernet Franc is also planted in small quantities, bringing forth earthy qualities, reminiscent of the land that is so cherished. “Revealing the wine’s essence rather than its make-up is our goal.” – Alfred Tesseron.

Though Pontet Canet is classified a Fifth Growth, the wines produced are consistently of Second Growth quality and in some vintages as good as the Firsts. Based on current prices for the wine, the market agrees. For nearly 250 years, Pontet Canet has been a force in Pauillac, the Medoc and all of Bordeaux, producing wines of uncompromised quality. Three centuries, three families, one goal.


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