Introducing Pontet Labrie
A new wine, a new opportunity"the debut… ticked all the right boxes"
"2015 was the perfect way to introduce Le Pontet - this is splendid."
The Wine Advocate
Jonathan Maltus, one of Bordeaux’ most pioneering and successful 100-point wine producers, started in St Emilion in 1994 with a small vineyard - Château Teyssier, which he has added to over the years, so that he now has 50 hectares under vines.
He was early and significant in the garagiste movement with the introduction of Le Dôme in 1996, a remarkable expression of Cabernet Franc that Robert Parker frequently rates in the top 90’s, including scores of 99 and 100 points for 2009 and 2010.
Meanwhile, his last single vineyard release - Vieux Château Mazerat (VCM) in 2008 was, alongside Cheval Blanc and Ausone, the only Saint Emilion to be awarded five stars from Decanter. As Will Lyons of The Wall Street Journal and the Sunday Times commented "What Jonathan has achieved in Bordeaux is nothing short of remarkable".
Earlier this year Jonathan approached me as he wanted to bring to market a very special new wine, and do so in a way new to Bordeaux and very attractive to fine wine lovers. He has one last boutique vineyard (just over a hectare) on the plateau in Saint Emilion up his sleeve, planted on some of the best soils in the region, with old vines (some pre-'56), surrounded by Grand Cru Classé châteaux.
“This is an exciting development from a site that is right next door to the centre of Saint Emilion. When we took over the vineyard it required a lot of work on complantation, replantation and reviving what is undoubtedly a great parcel. That has been done and we feel that 2015 is the right kind of vintage to introduce our first new wine since 2008.”
Jonathan approached me in August last year as he wanted to offer the wine (300 cases only) on a strict allocation-only basis directly to an exclusive clientele, remarking: “I’ve always appreciated the distribution model that they have in Napa which is very direct – think Screaming Eagle or Harlan – and although the system in Bordeaux is efficient – here is another exciting way to engage with wine lovers”. In August I tried the vineyard’s sample wine from 2014 (which will not be for general release), and was immediately impressed by the dark and spicy flavour profile: rich in boysenberry, black chocolate and pepper, and showing an unusual balance of minerality and accessibility.
Alongside the exclusivity of the wine, what makes this opportunity so compelling is that allocations will commence with the 2015 vintage which is now safely in barrel. The wine world is abuzz with excitement about Bordeaux 2015 which seems to deserve the hyperbole, with leading negociant, Renaud Ruer, highlighting especially the perfect harvest in St Emilion and the southerly appellations. Jonathan himself says "in 21 years making wine in the region, I don’t recall harvesting in conditions that ideal" and his is by no means a lone voice.
We are very excited that Pontet Labrie has been written up by Sunday Times and Wall Street Journal wine writer, Will Lyons, for his weekly Cap-X column. To have both Jonathan's and our own enthusiasm for the potential of the wine endorsed by a writer of Will's status is very gratifying. On tasting the 2014 recently he was "struck by its finesse and elegance, this is like nothing else in the Maltus stable, it was very fine with a graceful finish. I was seriously impressed."
"Early indications are that the 2015 is a very good year… if you’re interested in high end Bordeaux I would have a look at this, I predict the critics are going to love it."
With Bordeaux En Primeur tastings now in full flow we are delighted that the early feedback from Jonathan after the visits from various high profile critics has been extremely positive…
Roger Voss, Wine Enthusiast
"This is a round, concentrated wine, with fine berry fruits along alongside juicy dark plum. It is rich while keeping impressive freshness that comes from piercing acidity that cuts through at the end. The aftertaste shows spice, ginger and further tannins that promise aging." 94–96 points
The Wine Advocate "The maiden 2015 Le Pontet was hitherto blended into Laforge. 'It is the only block on the côte that we didn't have as a single vineyard,' Jonathan Maltus told me. 'We had wanted to do it for a while.' A blend of 85% Merlot and 15% Cabernet Franc, and matured in 80% new oak, it has a bright, well-defined bouquet with blackberry and bilberry fruit, demonstrating more precision than the 2015 Le Carré at this stage. The palate is medium-bodied with silky smooth tannin, very well-balanced with touches of blueberry and black cherry, fine delineation towards the finish that lingers long in the mouth. I think Maltus was correct: 2015 was the perfect way to introduce Le Pontet - this is splendid."
Drink: 2019-2035 93-95 points (second and only by a point to Le Dome in the Maltus stable)
"A new release from Jonathan Maltus from a parcel on the limestone plateau. More elegant style; fresh and well defined. Juicy, persistent and dry on the finish." 4.5 stars out of 5
Awaiting his notes, 94 points - same as Mouton Rothschild, Pontet Canet, Vieux Chateau Certan and Leoville Las Cases.
Matthew Jukes "Coming from a parcel of Grand Pontet, this is a rather more centred, dark and earthy wine, with deep tones and some wild, hard tannins. This is the most backward and reluctant of the Maltus trio and yet this is a fascinating wine with serious fruit and while the oak is masking some mulberry and plum juiciness it is a brooding creature and it will eventually emerge from it slumber." 17++
"An exciting new addition to the Jonathan Maltus portfolio; he recently acquired this parcel of vines next to Château Grand Pontet, on the plateau to the north of the town of St Emilion. The terroir is therefore clay and limestone, more profound than Le Carré, but not the hard and highly valued calcaire à astéries of Les Astéries. The blend is 85% Merlot, picked October 2nd, and 15% Cabernet Franc, picked October 13th. The alcohol is 14.7%, the acidity 3.12 g/l. In style it is certainly more elegant than Le Carré, with an interesting, rather chalky perfume to the nose, marked by black cherry, cocoa bean, with a certain floral perfume giving it some real lift. A very carefully judged palate follows, with a polished texture, a medium body through the middle, with piles of spicy energy and structure through the middle. A precise style, with a succulent tannic backbone, with long, grippy finish. This has been a wise buy for Jonathan, as this is a great addition to the portfolio, and would make a smart addition to any drinker's cellar too."
Update: 2015 in barrel and 2016 Outlook
Jonathan has just given us an insider’s look into the 2016 vintage and the progress of the 2015. Pontet Labrie’s first vintage, the splendid 2015, scored impressively from barrel: 94-96 from The Wine Enthusiast, 93-95 from The Wine Advocate, and 94 from Tim Atkin (the same as Mouton Rothschild, Pontet Canet, Vieux Chateau Certan and Leoville Las Cases!). This is exceptionally encouraging for it’s first showing and we are confident the scores from bottle will improve further. Jonathan just tasted it again to see how the wine is developing and said: “The 2015 is looking good and developing well. Filling out on the middle pallet. A long way off from taking it out of barrel. The body has filled out, the tannins are marrying well, still firm though showing a lot of grip, will continue to soften with further aging. Rich, with excellent potential. Very happy with its evolution.”
His 2016 report couldn’t be better so far. Short and sweet as follows:
"The winter of 2015-2016 was the warmest on record in France since 1900 with more rain than average. But the warmth meant early budbreak at the end of March, earlier than usual and as spring continued, temperatures dropped lower than average and rain continued. Growth was slowed by all the rain. Towards the end of May warmth finally sped up growth, and flowering got under way, going through until mid to late June. Starting on June 23rd, the rest of the summer was hot and particularly dry – with only 13mm of rain over 80 days. Jonathan said that the vines didn’t suffer at all, despite the drought, because of the water reserves that the soil had built up to that point. Good weather during harvest in a late-ripening year like 2016 is of course essential.
St-Emilion is reporting restrained alcohols of around 13.5-13.7% abv, with a natural richness. We are told that colour has been easily extracted this year – so expect deeply coloured wine in the glass. To have a good comparison on what to expect with the 2016 vintage, we look back to 1990 and you had a cool early season followed by an extremely hot and dry summer. 2012 had a similarly slow long harvest with a beautiful Indian summer, while some of the technical readings recall 2010. Some Bordeaux chateaux are even saying their 2016s are even better than 2015. Hyperbole aside it tends to follow that dry vintages produce quality vintages and we are interested to hear how the critics will react to another potentially impressive year."
Only 300 cases will be produced each vintage and sold on a strictly allocation basis (up to 2 cases each) for a three-vintage period. Other benefits include privileged direct access to the producer’s existing wine portfolio and exclusive wine tasting experiences in the US, UK and at the château. Given Jonathan consistently scores 97-100 points in good vintages, managing to impress both American and British critics equally, I feel very confident this will be a superb and unique addition to any fine wine portfolio.
Three Year Payment
Fixed at £3,420 (£1,140 per case of 12 bottles) In Bond. 2 cases maximum annual allocation. You can choose to have the wine in magnums for no extra cost. Those taking a 2-case annual allocation can have 6x double mags (3l), 3x Imperials (6l), 2x Salmanazars (9l) or a Melchior (18l) at less than their cost (a flat 10% premium).
For those with an eye on investment, it's worth noting that in comparable years like 2009 and 2010 there is a massive uplift in the pricing of Maltus wines, with the 100RP Le Dôme 2010 currently offered at £1850 versus its then EP price of £990.
For any questions, please contact Tom Harrow, or give us a call on the office.
Published on: December 14, 2015