Big Jugs

Which, if you didn’t know, is what “il ya du monde au balcon” means.  A quote from Dominique Lafon who, in my view, is one of the best winemakers in the World.  Except I don’t think he’s a winemaker.  I don’t think Mr Lafon “makes” his wine.  I think he lets it make itself.

It’s a bit like bringing up a child I suppose.  My son is two.  If I was so inclined I’m sure I could stick a golf club/tennis bat/whatever in his hands, read some serious books and start coaching.  He’s a clever boy and would soak some of it up.  I don’t think it outlandish to think that, after a couple of years, with some effort, largely on my part, I could have a four-year-old golfing or tennis prodigy on my hands.  But what I probably wouldn’t have on my hands is a balanced and healthy four-year-old, which is rather what I want.  Look around at the children of your friends and family (not your own) and, certainly in my experience, the children who are the most “together” are the ones whose parents give them love and a bit of direction but aren’t forcing anything down their throats.  I’m not going to “make” my son’s character – I’m going to let it form itself.

So – back to wine and big jugs of it.  Not a bad thing.

2004 Pontet-Canet was my wine of the vintage.  A perfect expression of the vintage itself: pure, fresh, clean, and of Pontet-Canet.  2005 Pontet-Canet is two bottles in one, such is the sheer concentration and power of the juice in the bottle.  It’s 75cl of Kryptonite.  I’ve not tasted 2006 for ages, so no comment.  2007 was one of the wines of a tricky vintage, outscoring Lafite from barrel though for some reason there is no in bottle score from Mr Parker.  I tasted it from bottle early this year and I can only recollect its extreme mintiness, though conditions were a long way from ideal.

2008 Pontet-Canet is again one of the wines of another tricky vintage, and my April 2009 note of this wine finishes: “I believe in this man”, which brings us to 2009 & 2010.  These two are Zeus and Poseidon, and are amongst the best wines I have ever tasted from barrel.  The 2010 is the better of the two in my opinion (making it Zeus) but the differences are stylistic rather than qualitative.  Borg vs McEnroe, Prost vs Schumacher (I await the Senna vintage), etc, etc.

2011 was the first really tricky vintage I’ve tasted from barrel (I do rate 2007 better), though I did rate Pontet and, not for the only time, I mention Latour in the Pontet note .  It’s not a comparison with Latour’s inimitable breeding (and I mean inimitable); it’s about a sort of graphite minerality/power/muscle thing that is going on.

Which brings us to 2012 Pontet-Canet, and those big jugs.

There is a hint of the Emperor’s new clothes about 2012 Pontet-Canet.  I know that I’m not the only one to have a question mark at the end of my note.  I also know how commercially important this wine is to some of my colleagues; I know too that tasting this juice at five months’ old is not a perfect science, nor am I the master of it.  Put concisely: 2012 Pontet-Canet tastes jolly good, which everybody seems to agree, but how many of us are totally sure where what we tasted is going to end up – by which I mean: what is it going to taste like, and when will it be, mature?  And, to get to my point: does 2012 Pontet-Canet taste of Pontet-Canet?  Or does it taste of winemaking?  Does it taste of those big jugs?  Is that where its seductive nature comes from?

I’m not quite sure of this, rather in the same way as I’m not quite sure of the wine.  I gave it a positive note, and it really was quite delicious in a vintage where “delicious” is a word that won’t feature in many tasting books.  But if it is one of the few successes of the 2012 vintage, it isn’t a wine that tastes of itself, if that makes sense.  If what you’re buying is what’s on the label then 2012 Haut-Bailly, for instance, won’t disappoint.  It tastes of 2012 – slightly austere, firm, angular – and of Haut-Bailly which, for me, is like benchmark Graves though with a hint of something Pomerol-esque to it.  Something very elegant.  But 2012 Pontet-Canet tastes neither of 2012 – it’s simply too seductive – nor of Pontet-Canet.  The more I think of it, the more I think it tastes of those big jugs.

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