Earlier this week, our client services team visited some of the most exclusive domaines in the Cote d’Or. The weather was outstanding, the vines were verdant and heavy with fruit in anticipation of harvest, and a more perfect setting for our time in Burgundy would be hard to imagine.
Our first visit was to Domaine Ponsot. Situated on the hillside above Morey St-Denis, the views from the Domaine are both glorious and expansive. Perfect vines stretch out in neat rows towards the village, drawing your eyes eventually towards the horizon and the Alps which appear there on clear days. To describe the environment as picturesque just doesn’t quite do it justice.
Adjacent to Clos du Lambrays, the Ponsot chai was constructed in 2001 and was purpose-built to provide not only extensive production and cellar space, but also as an ideal architectural example of a gravity-flow winery. From the moment the fruit arrives, it is treated as gently as possible. After crushing, it is fed into wooden basket presses which have been in continuous use by Ponsot since 1945. This is just one testament to the importance the Domaine places on history and the utilization of long-standing and proven winemaking practices.
Laurent Ponsot served as our charming tour guide. A kind and eminently knowledgeable winemaker, Ponsot wears an expression of perpetual bemusement. Perhaps this is due to his unwavering confidence in how he runs the winery operations. Ponsot knows, with absolute certainty, that he will produce great wines, and he is secure in that knowledge.
After a brief tour of the library – replete with vintages dating back to the 1920s – and the main production areas, we were led to the barrel room. Avoiding new oak and letting nature take its course are the fundamental principles of Ponsot’s winemaking, and he is careful to emphasize that he is just one element in a grand combination of elements that create these phenomenal wines.
Standing in the beautiful vaulted chamber, the back wall of which is exposed to bedrock for passive cooling, Ponsot further described his winemaking philosophy and practices for us. He was careful to draw a distinction between bio-dynamic, organic, and natural winemaking, and the methods which he uses to produce his wines. Ponsot made it clear that he dislikes putting specific labels on winemaking methodology and that above all else, he strives for minimalist intervention. “In many ways, the wines make themselves; I am simply their steward during the process.”
Taking us through the barrels (some of which are as much as fifty years old) we were impressed by how evocative of place each wine was. From the Chambolle-Musigny Les Charmes to the Griotte Chambertin, each wine leapt from our glasses shouting, ‘This is what I am, and this is where I am from!’ Truly, there is no better expression of the concept of terroir than a wine’s ability to do just that.
Ponsot produces more Clos de la Roche than any other domaine, and barrel-tasting the 2009 edition of his Vieilles Vignes was yet another lesson in why this wine is so sought after. Not only is it layered and deep, with red and black fruits on both the nose and palate, the most striking thing about this wine is the intense stream of minerality running through the mid-palate. When combined with a finish of confounding length, it is clear that this wine will provide enjoyment for many decades ahead.
After our visit to Domaine Ponsot, and our tasting of these exceptional wines, it is no wonder that Laurent claims to have more than a dozen people waiting in line for every bottle he produces. Known for their legendary ability to age and arguably second only to Romanee-Conti in their collectability, count yourself lucky if you are ever able to get your hands on these fine wines.
Make sure you view the following amusing video of Laurent informing us about the 2010 harvest.
Laurent Ponsot discusses the 2010 Burgundy Harvest from Antique WineCompany on Vimeo.