We just received Decanter Magazine for March 2015 with a great article on Fronsac and Canon Fronsac, which Jane Anson calls “Unbeatable Right Bank Value”! And even better, Chateau Grand Renouil 2010 is her Top 2 pick of the two AOCs, with a 92/100. “Once softened it will be full of liquorice, bitter chocolate and blueberries. There is alcohol here, but the excellent balance of acidity and tannins gives it a round mouthfeel rather than heat.”
It’s early October in France and we just finished harvesting our 2014 vintage. Fortunately, the weather of September in Fronsac was warm and dry, and there was much sunshine to ensure the great vintage we hoped for following doubts after a cool and rainy summer.
Our team of 15 harvesters started hand picking the grapes on September 24th. They are usually students looking to experience the harvest before school starts, or locals who come to our winery year after year. This year we started the harvest with Clos Virolle, the vineyard close to the river with sandy soils leading to earlier maturation of the grapes, and finished with Chateau Grand Renouil where the cool soils and old vines require more time to reach the perfect maturity.
The best time to pick the grapes is in the morning, when the grapes are still cool from the night’s low temperatures. Our pickers work in teams of two for each row on the vineyard. Carriers (usually men) collect the baskets from 3-4 pickers and bring their bucket full of grapes back to the tractor. The goal is to bring the grapes back to the cellar while they are still fresh. Once there, we put the grapes through a machine called “erafleuse”, which separates the stems from the berries, and sends the berries to the vats where the fermentation process will start almost immediately.
Only 20% of French wineries still harvest by hand today, but we believe it is a necessary step to achieve great wines. Moving forward, we now need to carefully monitor the fermentation process in the cellar where the sugar turns into alcohol. The next few months until December will be crucial for us to make the best use of our grapes and put our family signature onto this vintage. The grapes are in the vats but the work is not over yet!
Wishing you a great month of October!
For the Ponty Family,
After a shortage due to too much popularity on our Blanc de Grand Renouil, we are happy to announce that we just finished bottling our 2013 vintage, which is now available for sale. Part of the 3000 bottles production was pre-sold, and we will do our best to accommodate all requests, but don’t wait too long!
As July came to an end, grapes slowly started turning from green to red, ripening until mid-August. During summer, our role is to create all the conditions for the grapes to reach their best potential for the harvest. So how do we do that? First step is the “effeuillage”: removing the lower leaves from the vines so that the sun shines directly on the grapes, allowing for faster maturation and faster drying when it rains, lowering the chances of rot. Second step is the “green harvest”: cutting down some of the grapes on the vines, to keep only the best. These lucky ones will then receive more nutrients from the soil, resulting in a richer grape juice, and thus richer wine. As for everything we do, those delicate steps are done by hand in our winery.
We are now expecting the 2014 harvest to start around September 22nd. Many harvesters are already booking their spot to be part of the challenging, but very fun, experience of the harvest. If you want to see a “traditional” grape harvest done by hand, feel free to come and visit us at that time.
Enjoy your summer,
On behalf of the Ponty Family,
Two years ago, we released our first website to make our winery’s story and history accessible to anyone on the Internet. Today, we are happy to share with you a new 2.0 version of the Ponty Winery website: www.pontyvineyards.com .This new website allows you to easily find all the information about our wines including our brochure, photos, videos, press articles, and the numerous awards we’ve accepted.
Here is an example video we recently added to our website: http://youtu.be/VGUPhRj-EV8. In this video we show you how to prepare, taste, and enjoy a bottle of wine at our home, Chateau du Pavillon. We created this video after receiving many questions about wine tasting. Do feel free to share it with your friends or clients.
Finally, we are proud to announce that a few days ago, Enrico Bernardo, Best Sommelier of the World 2004, selected our Chateau Grand Renouil and Petit Renouil wines for his Michelin starred restaurant ‘Il Vino’ and his wine store ‘Champagne et Vins’ in Paris. We highly recommend you pay his restaurant a visit next time you are in Paris, to enjoy one of the best wine lists of the city.
On behalf of the Ponty Family,
Summer is upon us and it is awards season! We are happy to announce that after winning a Gold Medal at the Concours des Bordeaux last year, our Chateau du Pavillon 2010 won a Silver Medal at the Concours Mondial this year. This vintage is still available in limited quantities at our winery in Fronsac.
We spent a great proportion of May touring China to promote our wines. On May 13, Michel Ponty landed in China and spent the two following weeks traveling, having wine dinners, and presenting at wine fairs. His travels include Beijing, Xiamen (Fujian province), Wuwei (Gansu province), Guangzhou for the Interwine fair, Xi’an (Shaanxi province) and Hong Kong for Vinexpo. This trip gave us the opportunity to see how wine consumed differently around China, from Fujian where people drink a lot of wine and cognac, to Guangzhou where the knowledge of wine is more advanced due to its proximity to Hong Kong, to Xi’an where many people are still getting used to the taste of red wine.
As a winemaker, it is a humbling experience to have to adapt our communication to so many different people in such a short time and we do our best to explain simply and/or in detail the traditions of our winemaking since we begun in 1905. Our efforts were noticed by (name of journal), who included us in their story of “New Roads to China”. You can read the article here.
Happy month of June!
For the Ponty Family,
Bud Break (March – April)
During March, you can start to see the buds on the branches. They are wrapped in a set of very thin filaments protecting the bud like a cocoon. In early April, these filaments are pushed and torn up by the many little leaves opening up : this is the Bud Break. Each bud will give birth to a new branch.
The sprouting of the vines (April – May)
After the first leaves appear, the vine will take advantage of the warm spring weather, the rain, and the sunshine to develop new branches carrying the future grapes. The sprouting will continue all along the vegetative cycle, up until a month before the harvest.
The Flowering (May-June)
Flowering is an essential step in the reproductive cycle of the grape. Weather conditions are very important during this process. Typically, temperature between 20 and 25 degrees is accepted, and we pray for minimal rain on the flower. Unfavorable weather conditions can sometimes lead to a bad pollination : we call that « Coulure » or « millerandage ». Often, such bad pollination will decrease quality and quantity of the harvest.
The Fruit Setting (June)
After the flowering, the flowers will grow into fruits during the fruit setting phase. The future wine grapes show small little green berries that will slowly grow, while staying green.
« Veraison » or Onset of Ripening (July – August)
Around mid-July, the grapes slowly change color. The components of color in the grape berry are the anthocyanins. During this process, along with the maturation of the grape berries, the quantity of acids diminishes significantly while the quantity of sugar increases quickly. The color goes from green to pink then blue-red to black for the red grape varieties.
The maturation of the berries
The onset of ripening gives way to a phase of grape maturation, lasting 35 to 55 days, during which the grapes increase in size and accumulate mineral elements, amino acids, phenolic compounds (such as tannins, aroma molecules, and anthocyanins responsible for the color of red grapes). When these components are optimum, the maturity is reached and the harvest can start. The maturity depends on the grape variety, and can be tested by analyses and by tasting the berries.
The winter rest
After the harvest during late September – early October, the leaves turn yellow and fall around mid November. This is the beginning of the vegetative rest of the vine which will last all winter until March.
April is always an important month in Bordeaux. Every year, the first week of April, wine professionals and journalists from all over the world gather in Bordeaux for the “en primeurs” week. They taste the wine harvested in the fall, and the wineries start to disclose their prices for this vintage.
For us, this special week is a good time to share with you our decisions for the 2013 vintage. You already know that 2013 was a difficult year. It rained a lot in Bordeaux, the quantities harvested were very small, and after keeping only the best grapes, we produced very little. With such tiny quantities, and a quality that we believe didn’t meet our standards, we decided not to release any bottle of our Chateau Grand Renouil for 2013.
We made this decision because what matters most to us is the promise we made to all of you of a stable quality every year, and to maintain our reputation for producing high quality wines. For our other wines, we are confident that we can fulfill that promise, with quantities averaging 40% of previous vintages. They will be fruity, easy-to-appreciate wines with fine tannins, perfect to enjoy in the few years after their bottling, and we know you will find a lot of pleasure drinking them. Our Blanc de Grand Renouil is especially good and fragrant.
Please make sure to contact us directly if you have any question, and in the meantime, we want to leave you with a video we filmed last year explaining more what happens every year in Bordeaux in April.
Happy month of April!
For the Ponty Family,
First of all, we want to thank all our customers and friends who took the time last month to share their opinion about our new packaging. Most of you prefer a lighter and easier-to-carry 6-bottle box, so we will continue working on creating a beautiful flat box, while keeping the option for a 12-bottle box for special orders. We hope that you will be pleasantly surprised when we unveil this new design.
Speaking of packaging, this month the prominent newspaper South China Morning Post interviewed Helene on our gift box strategy in China. China is traditionally a big market for gifts, but with the new clampdown on corruption, this channel is declining. Nevertheless, presentation is very important, and we have created special gift boxes for this market that you can see in this article.
In March, we will once again be traveling the world to meet you and introduce our wines. On March 8th and 9th, Michel will be in Romorantin in France at the tasting organized by La Cave Palais Gourmets. He will then be in Belgium on March 29th and 30th for the tasting organized by Maison Mostade Hennebert in Solre sur Sambre. Contact us for more details. Helene will be touring China for various wine tastings. If you wish to co-organize a tasting or an event, please reach out to us, as we would be happy to come visit you.
Finally, we could not let March start without mentioning an important milestone! On March 2nd, Michel turned 60 years old! Of course he still looks the same than when he started making wine in his family’s cellars 34 years ago, so please join me in wishing him a happy birthday and many more years of great winemaking.
Happy month of March!
For the Ponty Family,
The winter 2013/2014 has been so warm in Bordeaux, our plum tree is already blossoming! We hope this is the sign of a great vintage ahead of us… Over the last two months we have had a lot of rain, causing floods in Bordeaux vineyards close to the rivers (we were spared, fortunately), but the temperatures have been uncommonly warm. We are crossing our fingers we won’t have a late frost!