Château Pontet-Canet is a fifth growth Bordeaux on paper, yet not in reality. Pontet-Canet produces left bank Bordeaux of quality well above its 5th growth status in the Bordeaux classification, and today challenges 'super-second' growths in quality terms.
Once derided as a non-vintage table wine served on trains, Pontet-Canet, whose 120 hectares (80 hectares of vines) neighbour Mouton Rothschild on the Pauillac plateau, has undergone the biggest recent quality revolution in Bordeaux wine. Under Guy Tesseron and his son Alfred, Pontet-Canet has soared since the 1990s, producing Pauillac of power, concentration, richness and balance.
Pontet-Canet dates back to the early 18th century and Jean-François Pontet, a local politician, whose descendents gradually acquired plots of adjacent land including the Maison de Canet. Things started well for the estate, but a drop in quality around the Bordeaux 1855 classification saw it classified as a fifth growth, when it formerly deserved better. In 1865 the Cruse family (one of the great Bordeaux winemaking dynasties) took ownership. Under Herman Cruse, Pontet prospered, but upon his death things went down hill badly.
In 1973 the Cruse family's reputation was damaged by fraudulent claims. They sold Pontet-Canet to Guy Tesseron (a Cognac magnate), and under Guy, his son Alfred and General Manager, Jean-Michel Comme, things got back on track in a big way, with a series of innovations that began to bear fruits in the 1990s.
Pontet-Canet recently converted to biodynamics, the first classed growth to take such a step, although this was abandoned in the difficult 2007 vintage. However, it looks set to be recertified as such in the coming years, and Pontet is also unique in using horsepower in the vineyards, claiming that tractors cause more damage.