Bordeaux 2018: A ‘hedonistic’ Pontet-Canet

One of the properties that suffered most grievously from the mildew epidemic in 2018, today’s Pontet-Canet offering will be much discussed.

The Pauillac flying fifth has increasingly split opinion in recent vintages, its use of amphorae following a switch to biodynamics not quite to everyone’s taste nor its increasingly ambitious pricing strategy.

The critical reception this year is largely very positive. The scores from Antonio Galloni (96-99) and Lisa Perrotti-Brown MW (97-99) potentially make the 2018 the ‘best’ (at least the best-scored) since the 2010.

Calling the wine “one for true hedonists”, Perrotti-Brown praised its richness and “impossible” layers while Galloni called it “dark, rich and explosive”.

Other leading critics have also been very positive, even though Matthew Jukes admitted that while, “I appreciate that this is an extraordinary wine, I am not as excited about it as I am the aforementioned vintages [2010 and 2016],” yet still gave it an 18+ score.

Not everyone was quite so swept away, although she gave it a 16.5 score, Julia Harding MW thought it needed a lot more time to come into its own and UK merchant Corney & Barrow in its email to customers said its team had been “perplexed” by it.

On the price side, on balance most will have to concede the asking price is fair. As with fellow biodynamene Château Palmer, Pontet-Canet lost a huge proportion of its crop in 2018, first to mildew and then drought.

Yields were down to as little as 10 hectolitres per hectare so the fact it was produced at all is a near miracle. It’s for this reason that Galloni also called it a “freak of nature”.

Offered at £1,038 per dozen (an increase of 2.8% on the 2017), it’s cheaper than the 2016 and much less expensive than the 100-point 2009 and 2010.

Yes the 2011, 2012, 2014, 2015 and even 2017 wines are reasonably scored and often considerably cheaper, but if you’re following the critical scores then this is one of the better and certainly more unique iterations of the wine of the last decade and more.

As with Palmer, its limited allocations and the ‘rare curiosity’ factor should see what little is available sell through.

Two more wines with strong appeal have also been released: Domaine de Chevalier and Grand Puy Ducasse.

Dom. de Chevalier was one of yesterday afternoon’s late releases at £650 p/cs. It was a fairly hefty 25% rise on the 2017 offer but the critical scores and notes have painted it as “simply majestic” (Galloni) and the “greatest ever” (James Suckling).

Liv-ex’s algorithm would suggest it’s toppy though some of the general campaign whispers suggest it hasn’t gone entirely unappreciated.

Stronger though is Grand-Puy-Ducasse, out this morning (24 May) at £326 p/cs (up 4% on the 2017). Another brand ‘on the move’ and a bit of fan favourite the scores have been very good, potentially one of the best this estate has produced in the modern era.

Galloni thought it “one of the most polished and refined recent vintages” he could remember. On the right side of Liv-ex’s ‘fair’ value line, Wine Lister surmised that it was “the most interesting buy of the morning so far”.

Also out was Phélan Segur, an excellent wine by all accounts but perhaps looking a little toppy at £425 p/cs, which is roughly the same price as its 2005 and 2% above the current price of its 2016. As has happened with other estate’s in the past (Haut Batailley for example) Wine Lister suggested this might be part of a repositioning move by the new owners. The wine may be worth it but whether it will prove a big seller is perhaps more debateable.

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