Day 1-Wine Harvest at Chateaux Pontet-Canet, France

Pontet-Canet, France, wine

We awoke to a thick fog covering the morning here- it’s entirely peaceful and quiet here at first dawn.  I like throwing open the large windows here decorated in white wrought iron and floor to ceiling panes. 

The workers had already begun their day when we were getting ready, charging our gear and assembling cameras for the day upstairs. We could see the line of people systematically each going through a row from one end to the other. Occasionally the clip-clip of a horse bringing more empty containers for the grapes punched the silence of the morning, and bees swirling around the jasmine tree below created a kind of symphony.

We were not quite adjusted to the time difference, awakening earlier at around 3am, talking animatedly to each other until we fell back into a deep sleep until about 8:30, with our morning orientation/tour commencing at 9. As a result, we missed the breakfast with the crew, but John has learned how to make the coffee using the fancy press and brewer in our apartment so we weren’t entirely deprived!

The amount of care and thought that is put into each bottle of Pontet-Canet is astounding and certainly explains its higher price back in North America. What we learned on the walk through of this facility was fascinating and so impressive.  We were most intrigued with their private stock cellar- dating back to the early 1900’s. The dusty bottles lay carefully on their sides, and inside a locked cage, allowing the visitors to fantasize and speculate just how wonderful it might taste.  Violette, our guide, explained that the terroir is so important to the Tesseron family that they have even ground up the rocks found along the vineyard to form the concrete used to create magnificent Roman-inspired Amphoras, concrete structured vats whose design was crafted onsite here. This is so “the wine is able to age amongst stones from it’s birthplace.” She pointed out that Robert Parker, (a famous American Journalist who writes commentaries and notes on wine), gave Pontet-Canet 100 points out of 100 points for their 2009/2010 vintage. No simple feat! These Amphoras each hold 4000 litres of wine, and so careful are they with the Pontet-Canet aging process that no electricity is permitted, instead using LED so that there is no electrical current to disrupt the aging.

The barrel room was fascinating as well- Violette explained that the wine ages 16 months, so a full 2 years passes between harvest and when bottling occurs. 50% of the barrels are replaced each year, and 15% are aging in a 1 year old barrel, with the remaining 35% aging in new barrels- an effort to remove the oak flavour and keep the purity and freshness at it’s peak. The desire of the Tesseron family for their wines to stay as sincere as possible to the terroir is reflected in every detail of the aging process.  The process itself is tightly controlled by the Estate manager, a man whose experience in winemaking spans over 30 years and this engineer is widely respected throughout Pontet-Canet’s operations, and indeed, the industry.

Back out in the filed, we photographed the pickers efficiently making their way through the rows, and were able to fly the DJI Mavik drone over the workspace in the vineyard allowing for unique stills to be grabbed from the footage.

As it is Friday, there will be no harvesting over the weekend. At dinner, we ate with the Portuguese crew and afterwards watched them dancing and sitting around listening to folk music, eager to burn off the labours of the day in leisure at night.

Saturday will be about exploring the nearby town of Pauillac, which is mostly ignored by the tourists who are intent on making their way through the various vineyards in the area instead. I’m sure we’ll find some gems and interesting photo-worthy subjects to share with you. Saturday night will be about night photography- more attempts at the Milky Way over the Chateaux and the vineyard at night.

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