Chateau Canon: Transforming St-Emilion's New Powerhouse

For those unfamiliar, St-Emilion's Chateau Canon has been under the ownership of Chanel's Alain and Gerard Wertheimer since 1996. Famed for their exacting standards in luxury, the Wertheimer brothers have extended the same level of care and attention to detail to their vineyard, resulting in an extraordinary revolution in quality, particularly within the last decade. Garnering exceptional acclaim, it has consistently earned 97 points or higher from esteemed critics worldwide since 2014. The Wine Advocate's William Kelley hails it as a "reawakened sleeping giant," while “Château Canon has cast a spell over” Neal Martin since the beginning of his career. Robert Parker himself elevates Chateau Canon to the status of a "major star." The extensive renovations undertaken by the Wertheimer brothers have borne fruit, and the estate is now operating at peak performance, Chateau Canon has indeed awakened as a sleeping giant.

Chanel's Influence

Following their unsuccessful attempt to acquire Chateau Latour, the Wertheimer brothers pivoted to Chateau Rauzan-Segla and eventually Chateau Canon. Both estates were in desperate need of repair, necessitating significant investment — a task the owners of the Chanel were well-equipped to undertake. The first order of business was a complete vineyard renovation at Chateau Canon. The vineyards had fallen into despair due to diseases, requiring a systematic replanting process, which continues to this day. 

Transformative Renovations

This massive project was led by the experienced John Kolasa. With ten years of expertise gained at Chateau Latour and two years revitalizing Chateau Rauzan-Segla, John spearheaded this massive project of replanting the entire vineyard, a process that continues to this day. To ensure a reliable fruit source during the vineyard's regeneration, the Wertheimers acquired a neighboring 8½-acre vineyard in 2000. The maturation of the newly planted vineyard has significantly contributed to Canon's resurgence and its ability to produce high-quality fruit.

Additionally, Chateau Canon and its cellars underwent extensive renovations. Prior to the Wertheimers' acquisition, the estate had a history of producing tainted wines. To combat this, they gutted the cellars before the 1997 vintage, overhauling the wine-making facilities with a gravity-fed system and new stainless steel vats. The deep pockets and unwavering commitment of the Wertheimer brothers have breathed new life into this promising estate.

Through the Ages

Chateau Canon's history in St-Emilion stretches back centuries before the arrival of Alain and Gerard. The origin of this estate might begin with Jacques Kanon, depending on how you ask. Jacques was a privateer who acquired a small 13-acre parcel in 1760. The word privateer was the politically correct term for a pirate in his days. After a successful career as a privateer, Jacques was eventually commissioned by the French Navy to lead convoys of ships to the New World. He operated in and out of Bordeaux eventually becoming familiar with the area and investing his hard-earned money into wine. 

After a ten-year stint in Bordeaux Jacques Kanon eventually sold to a Bordeaux merchant by the name of Raymond Fontemoing. At the time, Raymond also owned another property in Fronsac also known as Chateau Canon. By 1770 both wines were being sold as Chateau Canon. There are some debates about the origin of the name whether it came from privateer Jacques Kanon or the Fontemoing family who looked for continuity amongst their brands. Either way, the answer seems to be lost to history. 

Chateau Canon continued to pass through multiple families over the decades. The estate first appeared in the 1850 edition of Cocks et Feret under the name Saint-Martin and was owned by the Hovyn family. Three years later, in 1853, the estate’s name was officially changed to Chateau Canon. The estate was sold multiple times before finally ending up in the precious hands of Chanel owners, Alain and Gerard Wertheimer. 

Crafting Perfection

Today, thanks to the tireless efforts of its committed owners, Chateau Canon has risen to the spotlight. The resurrection of its vineyards is finally yielding the fruits of labor. Spanning an 84-acre vineyard, with 59 acres dedicated to producing the grand vin, Chateau Canon rests atop St-Emilion's prestigious limestone plateau. The vineyard predominantly comprises 70% Merlot and 30% Cabernet Franc, aptly described as the "meat and bones" of the wine by current winemaker Nicolas Audebert. With an average vine age of 30 years, this vineyard promises to evolve into a formidable source for one of St. Emilion's finest wines.

In 2014, Nicolas Audebert, formerly the winemaker for Argentia's Cheval des Andes, was appointed to gradually take over from John Kolasa at Chateau Canon. As Nicolas assumed his role, the Wertheimer brothers also sought the expertise of consultant Thomas Duclos to collaborate with him. Presently, Nicolas Audebert holds the position of head winemaker, leading the charge for St-Emilion's new powerhouse, Chateau Canon.

Unveiling Value

As I mentioned in the beginning, there has never been a more opportune time to enjoy the wines of Chateau Canon. So I beckon you, what are you waiting for? With the estate operating close to its peak and yet to reach its full potential, the market has not fully embraced its excellence. Achieving a consistent 97-point score or higher since 2014, Chateau Canon represents an exceptional value, with prices ranging from $150 to $350 a bottle. Astute collectors and connoisseurs, such as yourself, have a prime opportunity to own one of St-Emilion's major stars, as the market is yet to fully appreciate the splendor of Chateau Canon.

Written by: Craig Headding

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