Sunday, 4 December 2016
Saturday, 26 November 2016
|Chateau Pontet Canet built in 1781.|
The original owner of the estate was Jean François de Pontet, who was Grand Ecuyer (Master of the Horse) for Louis XV at Versailles. Monsieur de Pontet became Governor of the Medoc and bought land near Pauillac in 1705 to plant vines. He expanded his vineyards by planting around the small hamlet of Canet and the Pontet Canet estate was established. This was common practise at the time to link your name to the place, eg Lynch Bages, Leoville Barton, Lafite Rothschild.
The estate flourished and the wines became very well known around the world. In fact they were so successful that they were included in the
1855 Classification of the wines of the Medoc. They were ranked 5th Growth, which was a prestigious honour.
|Great to see the horses working at the Château|
The Cruse family ran the estate up until the 1970s when they had a scandal. In 1973 they were found guilty of falsifying records in order to sell cheap table wine as more prestigious wine. They lost their reputation as merchants and they were forced to sell most of their estates.
In 1975 Guy Tesseron from the Tesseron Cognac house bought Chateau Pontet Canet. He ran the estate and then passed it on to two of his three children, Alfred and Gerard Tesseron. When Gerard Tesseron passed away, the stewardship of the Château became shared between Alfred Tesseron and Gerard's two daughters Melanie and Philippine.
So the Château has had three family owners over the last three hundred years. This is quite an achievement considering the peaks and troughs of financial stability as well as two World Wars.
Jean Michel Comme started working at the estate in 1989 and is now the Regisseur, looking after the vineyards and winemaking. Jean Michel is a deep thinking, innovative character who is passionate about his work. He has a small wine estate on the Right Bank, which he farms biodynamically. So, he convinced Alfred Tesseron to convert Château Pontet Canet to biodynamics in 2004. However there was a hiccup in 2007 when the pressure of mildew and disease in the vineyards required specific non organic spray treatments. This set back the biodynamic conversion, which was finally achieved in 2010.
The Château also introduced 3 horses to work on a trial basis over 8 hectares of vines in 2008, and this has now expanded to more horses and in fact now a complete stable development, so that 14 horses can operate over the whole estate.
Under Jean Michel Comme's stewardship and with the support of the Tesseron family the Château has significantly improved the quality of the wines.
I visited the estate last week and enjoyed a fascinating tasting of a few recent vintages with Jean Michel Comme:
2008.....Savoury, rich style with great purity of Cabernet fruit. Drinking well now, but will age for another 20 years no problem.
2011.....Slightly tight/closed at the moment, but with a core of dark fruit and good acidity. A balanced wine that definitely needs more time.
|100 concrete amphorae in use since 2012 for ageing the wine.|
2013.....much lighter style of wine and very reflective of the difficult year. There is more Burgundy character and much lighter mouthfeel. A wine for short term drinking.
2015....(a barrel/tank sample). Incredible intense rich hearty style and voluptuous tannins and silky smooth. A magnificent wine that should be on a par with the great 2009.
Innovation and Pioneers.....
For a Grand Cru Classe Chateau of 81 hectares to transform the whole production to biodynamic principles of viticulture is very innovative. It might be easier to work in Burgundy on a very small scale with biodynamics, but they are the first Medoc estate to farm biodynamically.
To reduce the amount of oak ageing for their wine is also a dramatic change to everyone else in their near viscinity. The philosophy links to searching for a purity of fruit, rather than masking the wine with expensive new oak, as well as preserving the oak forests.
I love visiting Château Pontet Canet and they are certainly one of the star estates in Bordeaux. They are not afraid to experiment with different practises like using horses or ageing their wine differently. I am sure that Jean Francois de Pontet would thoroughly approve of re introducing horses to the wine estate. Some of their neighbours in Pauillac have been slightly suspicious, but the truth is surely in tasting these great wines. I have personally bought several vintages of Pontet Canet for my cellar and will continue to follow their innovations.
|In the tasting room at Pontet Canet|
|Manual sorting for the 2016 harvest.|
Tuesday, 4 October 2016
It is always an exciting, busy and quite nerve racking time for everyone involved in grape growing and wine production. The fruits of a year's work will soon be established. It will be a great relief as 2016 has not been the easiest growing season in France. There has been hail in parts of the Languedoc (near Montpellier) recently and Burgundy seems to have had all sorts of frost and hail in May....which is very late, which has severely effected the quantity and quality of grapes.
|Cabernet Sauvignon grapes ripening at Chateau Lafite Rothschild|
|Manual sorting at Chateau Haut Bailly. What music are they listening to?|
|Grape bunches being manually sorted at Chateau Pontet Canet|
The Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc grapes are now being picked over the next two weeks. It is a delightful time to visit the Chateaux and smell the juice and see so much activity taking place. Bella Wine Tours continues to run some great tours throughout the year.
|Biodynamic grapes gradually ripening at Chateau Pontet Canet|
Saturday, 1 October 2016
|Innovations at Chateau du Tertre in Margaux.|
They are also experimenting with large Austrian oak barrels, which is different from 99% of other top Chateaux, who use Allier or Troncais French oak. The only other Chateaux that I know who use a small amount of Austrian oak are Palmer (in Margaux) and Clinet (in Pomerol).
Tertre Blanc was first made in 2014 in small quantities (500 cases). It looks like 2016 could be a larger crop, but it will still be a small amount compared to the main emphasis at Chateau du Tertre on the red wines.
In the Medoc there are some interesting whites wines being produced, but they don't seem to be in the same quality league as Pessac Leognan. The major Chateaux that make white wines in the Medoc are: Palmer, Prieure Lichine, Talbot, Lynch Bages, Mouton Rothschild, Cos d'Estournel, Lagrange and Margaux.
|The excellent guide, Anna, offering a lovely tasting of 2009, 2010 and 2011 Chateau du Tertre|
Chateau du Tertre is certainly a wine estate to follow in the Margaux appellation for their improving quality. The Chateau was bought by Eric Albada Jelgersma in 1997 (he also owns nearby Giscours as well as Caiarossa in Tuscany). The talented Alexander van Beek looks after all Mr Albada Jelgersma's vineyards and since Frederique Ardouin arrived from Chateau Latour in 2008, the estate has been introducing biodynamic vineyard practises. The estate is also undergoing a re planting process to increase the density of vine plantings and to reduce the amount of Cabernet Franc on the vineyard.
The vines are planted over two main hills (Le Tertre means a 'hill' or 'mound') and the estate sits at the highest point of the Margaux appellation. The estate is ranked a 5th Growth from the classification of 1855, and interestingly it is the same size in 2016 as it was in 1855. There are very few estates that are the same size apart from Grand Puy Lacoste in Pauillac.
I recently tasted a magnificent 2005 Chateau du Tertre at the Chateau. It was perfectly 'in the zone' for tasting and drinking. Beautiful bright, balanced dark blackcurrant fruit style, with evident (but not too overbearing) acidity and tannin. A wine to enjoy now and over the next 10-15 years.
This wine retails for approximately £60 or $75 or €70.
Wednesday, 2 December 2015
|Sunrise at Warren Hill in Newmarket.|
Many of the Kings and Queens over the years have enjoyed the horse racing in Newmarket, as there are two magnificent racetracks. Queen Elizabeth II has had horses based in Newmarket for many years and frequently visits the town.
Nowadays Newmarket is the unparralleled centre of thoroughbred horseracing in the World. From my office I can hear the purr of the auctioneer at Tattersalls auction, which is on the outside of the town. Tattersalls are currently selling mares for breeding, but they have regular sales for Yearlings, Horses in Training, Breeze Ups and more. In fact Tattersalls is one of the biggest businesses in the town. I popped in to the auction last night to witness the Oaks Winner, Qualify, being sold to John Ferguson (acting for Sheikh Mohammed) for 1.6 million guineas. But John Ferguson also bought another mare for 2.7 million guineas as well as a few more!
Horse racing is truly an international business and that is reflected in the town. There are many people from all corners of the World working in racing and being drawn to Newmarket, which adds to the dynamism and vibrancy.
The trainers based in and around the town have fantastic facilities, which are maintained by The Jockey Club. The gallops have been looked after for four hundred years, with specific focus for looking after the horses. The quality of the grass is sensational and is perfect for a delicate thoroughbred race horse.
Many of the top trainers such as Sir Michael Stoute, John Gosden, Luca Cumani, Ed Dunlop, William Haggas, Michael Bell, David Elsworth, Peter Chapple-Hyam, Charlie Appleby, James Fanshawe and Sir Mark Prescott are based in the town, whilst there are many older trainers such as William Jarvis, James Eustace and Mark Tompkins who continue to send out winners each year. But there are also many newer trainers who have appeared such as Marco Botti, Roger Varian, David Simcock, Ed Vaughan, Charlie Fellowes and Hugo Palmer. I am looking forward to visiting some of these racing yards over the coming weeks.
The yearlings will now be at the trainers yards and the trainers will be establishing the quality of their new stock, who will all be 2 years old on January 1st 2016. Serious two year olds will be lightly raced if they have potential to be Classic wineers when they are 3 years old. But if a horse has great precocious potential then the main target will be the Royal Ascot race meeting in June 2016.
A wonderful statistic that I saw recently is that there are 3000 racehorses in Newmarket and c 15000 people.
One day I would love to own a racehorse, but the costs are high. To buy a quality horse you can spend any money, but like most things the more you pay, the more opportunity there might be.
The costs of training a horse can vary between £12-18000 per year including racing silks, race days, vets bills, transport and entries etc.
I had better get back to work to see if I can fulfill my dream.
Wednesday, 18 November 2015
Just finishing a busy year of wine tours, visits and tastings to some of the top Chateaux and producers in Bordeaux.
It is always amazing to see where the clients come from.....2015 has seen clients from New York, California, Tennessee, Madrid, Singapore, Mexico, Florida, Malaysia, India, England, Indonesia, Germany, Canada, Scotland, Massachusetts, Australia, Texas, China, Bahamas, Virgin Islands, Hong Kong, Arkansas, Czech Republic, Georgia, New Zealand, Michigan, Zimbabwe, Guatemala, Washington, Holland, France and the Philippines.
It has been a fun year and a great privilege to meet some fantastic people and share some wonderful experiences. We have enormous plans for 2016. Watch this space!!
Tuesday, 4 August 2015
|In the tasting room at Chateau Pichon Longueville, Comtesse de Lalande. Credit: @drinkbordeaux|
There are many ways of exploring what we do at Bella Wine Tours:
Facebook: Bella Wine Tours
Facebook: Hamish Wakes-Miller
So please feel free to 'like' or link up and you can stay in contact.
We have some very exciting adventures coming up with the some top quality clients.
We want to share the fun and experience of fine wine.