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March 26, 2014

Pontet Canet 2013 En Primeur

Pontet.Canet

Quite surprisingly Pontet Canet has released their 2013 vintage today marking the start of the En Primeur campaign! This is particularly unexpected as most major critics have just begun tasting barrel samples this week, while IG Wines and the rest of the trade won’t taste Pontet Canet until next week. It is also common knowledge that Robert Parker will be breaking with tradition this year and publishing his En Primeur 2013 report at the end of June, two months later than normal.

Yet despite the absence of tasting notes, scores and the extremely early release, there is a very interesting dynamic in 2013. A difficult growing season and harvest has meant that Pontet Canet has been highly selective in the vineyard and produced 50% less wine in 2013 than in 2012, at the extraordinary yield of 15 hectolitres per hectare. To put this into perspective the 100 point scoring 2010 vintage was harvested at 45 hectolitres per hectare producing 20,000 cases: the 2013 will see fewer than 10,000 cases in the market.

Early reports suggest leading estates would reduce production by 25% and as such Pontet Canet have continued their commitment to quality by massively reducing their potential revenue in order to maintain the extremely high quality. Will this enormous fall in production create greater demands on the Bordeaux supply chain and how does it affect the quality of the wine?

2013 saw a late harvest after a cold first half of the year held up vineyard growth. An extremely cold May was compounded by heavy rain in June leading to uneven flowering; August was warm and September changeable. October presented its own problems with a mixture of downpours in between very warm and humid periods with most producers picking in between the rainfall. Broadly speaking these weather conditions will mean that a large percentage of grapes will not achieve the same tannin and sugar ripeness as in warmer vintages, however, the all-important freshness and acidity will be present. By introducing this incredibly strict selection Pontet Canet will have been able to select only the ripest and best developed grapes and remove the risk of the less healthy grapes which could have reduced the overall quality.

Pontet Canet is one of the best performing left bank wines over the last four years, scoring 100 points in 2009 and 2010, 93-95 in 2011 and 91-94 in 2012 (Robert Parker). Their 100% biodynamic wine-making techniques and fastidious focus has lead Pontet Canet to be First Growth quality, in fact it is located high on the illustrious, elevated real-estate sandwiched between Lafite and Mouton Rothschild.

The reduction in production makes the 2013 very intriguing as it is hard to imagine that the majority of estates, if any, will be this low. It suggests that Pontet Canet will be one of the best wines of the difficult vintage; their perennial high quality allows nothing less. Pontet Canet lovers, of whom there are many, will no doubt take their allocation at £57 a bottle: our release price is £30 lower than in 2012. As a merchant without having tasted the wine we cannot provide a solid reference point. It is also noteworthy that other vintages such as the 95+ scoring 2006 vintage and the 96 points scoring 2008 look very compelling at £680 a case, we have these both available!

All considered it is interesting to factor in the reduction in yield and the fact that Pontet Canet’s exceptional recent scores and commitment to using only the most healthy grapes could well suggest this will be one of the wines of the vintage. The accepted wisdom would be to wait a few weeks for tasting notes and feedback, yet with so little released, demand will be greatly stretched and there is no question that Pontet Canet is one of the greatest wines the world over.

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