Why is this Wine so Yummy?
The Future is Here!
In February 2017, after 36 years at the helm of Domaine Ponsot, Laurent Ponsot left his celebrated Morey-St-Denis Estate to launch an eponymous operation with his son Clément. This was obviously a great surprise to many, if not all, Burgundy lovers, including us. Yet behind the scenes, the family had been managing Ponsot’s impending departure for some time, giving this iconoclast a buffer to set up his new venture. The reasons behind the departure remain private and, considering the complexity of untying and splitting the family’s vineyard holdings and external contracts, admirably discreet. Laurent remains a 25% silent shareholder in Domaine Ponsot, although he will be focussing exclusively on “Laurent Ponsot”.
So a new icon is shaping up. The new operation, an all-in-one vineyard owner, sharecropper and négociant, is based in Gilly-lès-Cîteaux, close to the Clos de Vougeot. It’s a distinctly family affair: joining Ponsot and Clément are Ponsot’s other two children Claire and Nicolas—and importantly, Ponsot can also count on his experienced vigneron/chef de cave Arnaud Rouellat, a veteran of 20 years with Domaine Ponsot.
The key thing to note about the offering below is that almost all of the wines, with the exception of only the Bourgogne rouge and Gevrey-Chambertin, come from the original vines that once supplied Domaine Ponsot.
This includes legendary wines like Le Montrachet, Le Chambertin, and Clos St Denis which were previously strictly offered as part of Domaine Ponsot’s mixed Grand Cru packs, as well as the renowned Griotte-Chambertin and Chambolle Charmes. Most of these have been farmed by Ponsot since the ‘80s and will now no longer be offered by the Domaine. As Ponsot put it, “Just because there’s been a divorce, doesn’t mean the children are not still mine!” Well, some of the children at least. From 2017 the line-up at Laurent Ponsot will increase to include some new and exceptional terroirs in both the Côtes de Nuits and Côtes de Beaune.
Almost all of the wines come from the same vines as previous vintages of Domaine Ponsot releases and, when you consider that it is the same man making the wines as well, it becomes clear that the wines of Laurent Ponsot offer a deep continuity with the historical offering from the family Domaine, even if they are now being released under a radically different label. This leads to another important point: there are now two ‘Ponsot’ producers in Burgundy, albeit with wines from a different set of terroirs. To wit, Laurent Ponsot took the Clos St Denis vines, but the Domaine kept the Clos de la Roche.
Regarding winegrowing and winemaking, the song remains the same. There is no recipe. Ponsot, as before, farms without chemicals but refuses to adhere to any sort of restrictive ideology. All fruit is destemmed, and the wines are vinified in large, ancient, open-topped oak fermenters. From here, basket pressing occurs before the wines are sent to exclusively old oak barriques for the malos and aging. New oak is anathema to Ponsot, one of the things that make his wines unique and gives them such purity from the get-go (particularly since 2005).
As we know, Ponsot is far from conventional. Instead, to borrow a phrase from Andrew Jefford (The New France), his practice invokes a kind of complex simplicity. He avoids sulfur dioxide but protects the wine in vats with inert gas and makes use of the latest technology and science in order to maximise freshness and purity in the bottle. This starts in the winery where every barrel is tested monthly, right through to the packaging. As before, Ponsot’s cases are ‘connected’. Each shipment is sent with a microchip that tracks the temperature over the wine’s journey, and each bottle is equipped with a dot of ink that changes colour if the bottle encounters high temperatures. There is also a special ‘Prooftag’ on the Grand Cru boxes to ensure the wine is genuine. Finally, the 750ml bottles are sealed with striking, jet black Ardea Seals; the highly effective, taint- and oxidation-free closure twenty years in the making that is now being trialled and used at several of Burgundy’s top Domaines, including DRC. You can read more about these matters here.
Laurent departed the family Domaine with a few casks of the 2015s he produced (as part of his share of the family vintage). These wines, offered below, finished their elevage in Gilly, and are bottled under the modern new label. They are, in effect, barrel selections from Domaine Ponsot. When we asked Laurent if he chose specific barrels for his own label he winked and said, “What do you think?” We couldn’t tell if he was joking or not. To eliminate any confusion between the two operations, Laurent has chosen not to use terms like Vieilles Vignes and Très Vieilles Vignes. Instead he has labelled all the 2015 wines with “An Zéro” (Year Zero), noting that 2016 is “Year One”, the first bonafide vintage for Laurent Ponsot. From 2016, thecuvées have been named after trees (reds) or flowers (whites).
Such a contrast between Domain Ponsot & Laurent Ponsot’s new digs!
The 2015 & 2016 Vintage
As for the vintages below, I think most people will know that 2015 is a great vintage that reminds of a finer, less structured 1999 or a deeper, more concentrated 2010. You could also run with a fresher, more structured 2009. That’s all another way of saying that this is an outstanding year that produced deep wines of power and vibrancy. The better producers’ reds will age superbly. It will rightly be known more for its reds than whites, although there are plenty of outstanding wines in both colours. The vintage was sunny and yet the nights were cool (unlike, say 2009) so although the whites have depth and pulp, they also have plenty of freshness. They are drinking well already and will continue to do so. What is less well known, as a lot of the wines are only starting to hit the market, is that 2016 is an absolutely outstanding year in Burgundy—and in both colours. The low yields brought on by the frost have played their part in the quality and style but even when there were normal yields, the wines of the best producers are generally brilliant.
To focus in on the producer we offer today, Laurent Ponsot has produced a remarkable set of wines. They are incredibly deep and lush and layered, with low yields and late picking definitely playing their part. They are much more seductive and fleshy than the more powdery, classical 2015s and are, in fact, as hedonistic and powerful a set of young red Burgundies as I have tasted. Full stop. The top wines are not cheap, that much is clear, and yet they seriously deliver, sitting comfortably alongside the greatest wines being produced in Burgundy. They are also available in tiny quantities. In short, they are what they are.
Where in the World does it Come From?
With this wine coming from Chambolle-Musigny we share this video exploring the villages of Gevrey-Chambertin, Morey-Saint-Denis and Chambolle-Musigny.