Chateau Pontet Canet are to mature 15% of their 2012 vintage in amphorae according to iDeal Wine – which is a first for the Grand Cru Classé. The practice is unknown in Bordeaux, being more common amongst Italian wineries who believe that these neutral containers allow the true characteristics of the fruit to emerge. However Technical Director Jean-Michel Comme has taken the plunge to mature the wine in 50 amphorae, each holding 900 litres that have been specially made for the purpose.
Jean-Michel has been limiting the amount of new oak barrels used to mature the wine for some years now and having tasted wines that were matured in amphora he decided to use the method in order to make a wine that preserves the natural expression of the grape without oak.
Pontet Canet has been following biodynaic principles – very successfully – for a number of years (see my blog Biodynamic Pontet Canet). Amphorae are slightly porous which allows micro-oxygenation of the wine and Pontet Canet’s amphorae are actually made from crushed soils from the chateau’s vineyards. The idea behind this is that the wine maintains a form of contact with the soil that the grapes were grown in.
Merlot will be matured in amphorae containing limestone and Cabernet Sauvignon in those containing crushed gravels. The design of the amphorae is also unique, having been designed especially for Pontet Canet.
The 50 amphorae will be filled this January with separate batches of wine from each parcel of vines.
Although this is a first for Bordeaux I have spotted other vineyards in France using amphorae for their wines: Domaine Viret in the southern Rhone, Domaine Belluard in Haute Savoie, Stéphane Tissot in Jura, Domaine Jean Claude Lapalu in Beaujolais, Clos d’un Jour in Cahors, and Clos Romain in the Languedoc.
It will be interesting to see what Pontet Canet’s 2012 vintage tastes like and I wonder if other Grand Cru Classé will follow suit?