The Bottle Opener: How wine buffs should spend that bonus

CHATEAU Pontet-Canet, a lovely domaine in Paulliac but normally overshadowed by its more famous neighbours, has been making the headlines recently. Last week it announced the price of its 2013 wines, €60 a bottle in bond, the same price as 2012.

So what? you might ask. Well you see, this is the week the world's wine critics descend on Bordeaux to taste the 2013 vintage. For Pontet-Canet to set its price before they have even had a snifter is tantamount to sticking two fingers up in their general direction. The 2013s are generally reckoned to be shockers, beset by copious flooding and misery. But Pontet-Canet is saying “these are decent wines, worth the money, whatever you think”.

“Very brave”, as they said in Yes Minister. And yes you have to admire the courage of Alfred Tesseron, the owner, who has worked miracles to deliver any vintage at all.

I have a particular interest in Pontet-Canet since I have a bottle of the 1914 deep in my cellar and plan to open it with friends on the centenary of World War I in August to raise money for the Royal British Legion. It will probably be vinegar but it is an astonishing link with a darker age.

So I was delighted on Monday to be invited to a vertical tasting by Asset Wines and Wine Owners, two excellent merchants and traders. This provided me with some decent clues on where you should be spending your bonus this year.

We went from an sadly insipid 1985, to a massive 1996 and finished with an enormous flourish with a soft, plummy 1955. But it was two more recent wines that interested me most. The first was a deep and complex 2004, the second a rich, full 2006. Chateau Pontet Canet went bio-dynamique in 2004 and that decision is certainly justified from these results. They are truly lovely wines.

But the other real interest for me is the price. Both 2004 and 2006 are rather overlooked vintages, overshadowed by the massive 2005. As a result a case of the 04 will set you back just £531 (in bond) while the wonderful 06 is £600, according to Wine Owners latest price sheet. That’s pretty much the same price as M Tesseron is asking for his 2013s. In my mind there’s no contest. With these two you’re buying known quality, and quite special wines that, in the case of the 2006s, are still some years from their best.

I know a fair few City A.M. readers divert some of their bonus money into wine around this time of year. I’ve not yet tried the 2013s but everything I’ve heard tells me AVOID. Ignore any desperate hype. Spend your money instead on the best of the vintage from eight and ten years ago and you won’t be disappointed.

Asset Wines: 020 8839 5652,
Wine Owners: 020 7278 4377,

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