Bordeaux, generally, is known for its red wines. The Medoc region and Pauillac are especially known for their red wines, and some of the most famous wineries on the planet (Chateau Latour, Chateau Lafite Rothschild, Chateau Mouton Rothschild) call the Pauillac area home. These wines are widely distributed, and I’m sure you can find them in the “France” or “Bordeaux” section of your neighborhood cavist.
Pauillac is a city in the Medoc region of Bordeaux. But, more importantly, it’s an AOC (Appellation d’origine contrôlée), “controlled destination of origin.” This means that if a Bordeaux wine is labeled “Pauillac,” it must adhere to certain stringent requirements. For example, the grapes used in the wine must actually be grown in the Pauillac region. Also, the only grapes that can be used are cabernet sauvignon, merlot, petit verdot, and malbec.
Another buzz word in France for food and wine is terroir. I’m not sure if I will ever fully understand this concept, but I think it means that every minor detail in the environment affects food. This means that the climate, soil, nearby rivers, oceans, other wildlife in the area, etc… all affect how a grape will taste, ultimately affecting the final product, wine.
I toured the Pontet-Canet Winery. It is next door to the famous Mouton-Rothschild winery, meaning that the “terroir” that their vines share is nearly identical. However, Pontet-Canet is famous in its own right. Though there are thousands of wineries in the region, some have managed to stand out. Much of this is due to the 1855 classification that occurred. At the time, there were about 3,000 wineries, and only several dozen made it on the list. Pontet-Canet was one of them.
Pontet-Canet is not only famous for its bold red wines, but for its sustainable farming practices. Not only is it certified organic, it is certified “biodynamic,” the only winery in the entire Bordeaux region to receive such a certification. But, you won’t find this information on the labels as the owners don’t want to be marketed as organic, which often suggests that it lacks elsewhere.
Instead of pesticides, herbs are sprayed. Instead of tractors, whose heavy weight causes the vines’ roots to be compressed, horses are used. And all of this is done according to the moon cycles (which makes it “biodynamic,” setting it apart from other wineries that are just “organic.”
And apparently, you can taste the difference. People at other chateaux I visited were singing the praises of Pontet-Canet’s recent vintages.
I found the 2007 vintage I tasted at Pontet-Canet to be very spicy, long, and slightly tannic. It was not my favorite, but I am aware that we all have different preferences! Plus, it’s hard for me to taste a wine and say, “Yes, in 15-20 years, this will be excellent!”