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,
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,
2014 just started but we are already hard at work to bring our wines to you everywhere in the world.
Early January, the French newspaper Sud Ouest interviewed Helene about our strategy in China and her recommendations to enter the Chinese market. A year and a half ago, Helene created our import company in China, and this market now makes up 30% of our sales. We just moved in a new office in Beijing, and would love to show you around if you ever stop by this city. Our wines are now also widely distributed in Great Britain by Fields Morris and Verdin (wholesale department of Berry Brothers). This country is actually the largest export market for Canon Fronsac wines.
In the vineyard, we are still pruning our 75,000 vine stocks, all by hand because the quality of the future vintage starts with a good pruning. Pruning the vines allows better sunlight penetration to the fruit, which will promote color and discourage vegetal flavors in the wine. Less fruit per vine also makes the resulting wines more intense and complex. In wine, it’s very much a trade-off between quality and quantity!
Finally, we are currently looking into a new packaging for our wines, with a unique 6-bottle flat box. Beforehand we want to know your opinion: do you prefer to receive your wine in 6 or 12 bottles cases, and do you have any advice about this new format?
In November, Michel and Helene Ponty traveled many regions to represent the Ponty wines, while our 2013 vintage is slowly transforming into another great wine.
What happened in Canon Fronsac?
In our cellar, our 2013 red wines are undergoing the last fermentations in the vats, transforming the malic acids, before we start the ageing process. They will be ready around mid-2015, the 2013 white wine mid-2014. Don’t forget that the 2013 quantities will be around half of other vintages.
Because of high demand, we are soon running out of our Chateau Grand Renouil 2010 and Blanc de Grand Renouil 2012. Please reach out to us soon if you wish to grab some of our last bottles. Chateau Grand Renouil 2010 is especially exceptional.
Ponty on the road
Michel Ponty traveled to Chateauroux for the wine fair organized by Caves Raffault, and present the 2010 vintage and our 2012 white wine. Once again people were surprised by the great consistency of our white over the years and its extreme fragrance. Michel Ponty then visited our long-term clients in Belgium. Some of them are now the grandchildren of Victor Ponty’s clients more than 60 years ago! During this trip he finalized our upcoming event Ponty wine tasting, concert and lunch, featuring Dominique and Pascale Ponty playing piano and violin respectively, on December 8th at Lochristi (Belgium). We still have a few seats available for this event, email us at [email protected] for more details.
On the other side of the globe, Helene Ponty has been traveling from Beijing, to Shanghai and Xiamen to attend the Saint Emilion Pomerol Fronsac wine fairs organized there and represent Canon Fronsac wines. Many attendees told her how they felt that Canon Fronsac’s terroirs allowed for the best expression of the Merlot grapes.
Ponty Wines in the world
We are happy to announce that our Ponty wines are now available in Switzerland, and in Fujian province in China. Please contact us if you would like the contact information of our distributors there.
Finally, we want to leave you with our latest creation, a video introducing our winery! Enjoy!