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Domaine Ponsot

An Iconoclastic Morey-Saint-Denis Domaine

This iconoclastic Morey-Saint-Denis Domaine is dripping with history. Estate bottling commenced here in the 1930s as it did at other historic Domaine’s like Henri Gouges, Lafarge and Rousseau. Clonal selection in Burgundy also began here—Jean-Marie Ponsot provided the mother plants from his ancient Clos de la Roche vines for the first approved Burgundy clones. Today, Domaine Ponsot remains Burgundy’s most avant-garde estate, all the while crafting Burgundies of beguiling purity from many of the grandest terroirs of the Côte. 

Iconoclast Laurent Ponsot left Domaine Ponsot to start his own negociant business in 2016.  Laurent’s sister, Rose-Marie Ponsot (co-director of the Domaine since 1997) is now in charge, assisted by her nephew William and manager Alexandre Abel. Cellar-master Laurent Desgouttes has also joined the ranks. What has changed since Laurent’s departure? A few things, but nothing truly fundamental. The Domaine’s long-standing vineyard manager of 35 years, Denis Remondet, remains in his role and continues to work to ever higher standards, with meticulous attention to detail paid to the vines. The Domaine employs seven full-time workers for seven hectares of vineyard (which tells you all you need to know). It’s the same harvesting policy—only fully ripe fruit with strict selection in the vineyards. It’s the same gravity-fed cellar with its huge, wooden fermenters and zero new oak—unique in the Côte de Nuits—is still the rule. 

The stunning wines of recent vintage signify another notch in the belt of this iconic Domaine under the guidance of Rose-Marie Ponsot and manager Alexandre Abel. To borrow a sentiment from Tim Atkin MW, “Domaine Ponsot is flourishing under the new régime.”

None of this is to say Domaine Ponsot has been stuck in a time warp. The Estate has a terrific, modern cellar and enthusiastically uses the latest technology where it aids quality. Hydraulic basket presses, temperature control in the wooden fermenters, a state-of-the-art bottling line and the use of ArdeaSeal closures make this clear. Most recently, every hectare of the Domaine’s vines are now managed organically (the steepest sites in Monts Luisants have always been the challenge here) and horses have reappeared in the vineyards. In the cellar, there’s a new destemmer, there is no longer any pumping at harvest time, and the white grapes are not crushed before pressing. Nothing could be more natural than for a great producer to continue to evolve in this way, all in the name of ever-greater quality and consistency.

No article on this Domaine would be complete without reference to two unique wines. Domaine Ponsot is the largest landowner in Clos de la Roche, with some of the oldest vines—averaging approximately 60 years of age—and mostly situated within the historic Clos itself. Clos de la Roche was expanded in the 1950s to include a range of neighbouring sites (Les Fremières, Les Genevrières, Les Mochamps, Monts Luisants, etc.) which surround the original vineyard. As you might expect, the original terroir makes different wines compared to the surrounding sites now included in the Grand Cru. Domaine Ponsot owns almost three hectares of the original 4.5-hectare Clos which is widely considered to be the finest part of the Clos de la Roche. The rest of Ponsot’s holdings are within the Monts Luisants lieu-dit, which are said to add freshness to the power of the original Clos fruit. Terroir aside, this wine is clearly the reference point for the AOC. To us, it is not only Ponsot’s grandest wine but also one of the greatest red wines in Burgundy. 

Then, there is Clos des Monts Luisants, a very special, age-worthy 1er Cru that is unique on several levels. Not only is it a monopole, but it is also the only 1er Cru for white in Morey-Saint-Denis and the only 1er Cru that is 100% (old vine) Aligoté in Burgundy. At different times in this vineyard’s history, there have been small quantities of Chardonnay and ‘Pinot Gouges’ (a white mutation from Pinot Noir) in the blend. Yet from 2006, it returned to its pre-1930s origins of 100% Aligoté from an ancient, mostly bush vine selection planted in 1911. There is a good reason for this ─ Aligoté has always produced outstanding wine here, better than anything the Ponsot clan could muster from Chardonnay. It seems that this high-altitude, rocky site seems to have a natural affinity with Aligoté. Once upon a time, there would probably have been many other vineyards across the Côte about which we could have said the same. Today the wine commemorates its ancient Aligoté vines on the label with the Très Vieilles Vignes designation (only given by the Domaine to vineyards that are over 100 years old). This is a wine of incredible depth, racy, mineral energy, pulpy texture and longevity.

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From Vine to Wine by Rose-Marie Ponsot

From Vine to Wine by Rose-Marie Ponsot

Written by historian Guillaume Grillon and Rose-Marie Ponsot and with an intro by William Kelley, From Vine to Wine is a captivating read for all Burgundy lovers—it not only covers the history of the domaine but uses that history to explore the evolution of Burgundy over the last 150 years. It is packed with surprises and insights.Domaine Ponsot on its own has such a remarkable and distinctive history. It was one of the pioneers of estate bottling (starting in the 1930s with other historic domaines like Gouges, Lafarge and Rousseau). Jean-Marie Ponsot selected many of the great Pinot clones we still use today (often called Dijon clones) from his ancient Clos de la Roche vines. The Ponsots were intimately involved with the establishment of the appellation laws in the ‘30s, have been the longest and arguably most important advocates of the Aligoté grape (they still produce the only 1er Cru Aligoté on the Côte) and were the earliest to move away from the use of new oak. Even today, Domaine Ponsot remains one of Burgundy’s most idiosyncratic and innovative estates. The story of the domaine is therefore packed with intrigue and surprising insights into the story of Burgundy.

From Vine to Wine by Rose-Marie Ponsot
Domaine Ponsot Grand Cru Clos de la Roche Vieilles Vignes 2020 (1500ml)

Domaine Ponsot Grand Cru Clos de la Roche Vieilles Vignes 2020 (1500ml)

This is, without any doubt, Domaine Ponsot’s top wine and one of the finest wines of the Côte de Nuits. The terroir itself largely explains why. Domaine Ponsot is famously the largest landowner in Clos de la Roche, perfectly situated almost entirely within the historic clos and with some of the oldest vines (averaging approximately 65 years of age). Clos de la Roche was expanded in the 1950s to include a range of neighbouring sites (Les Fremières, Les Genevrières, Les Mochamps, Monts Luisants, etc.) surrounding the original vineyard. As you might expect, the original terroir (widely considered the finest part of the Clos de la Roche appellation) makes different wines from the surrounding sites now included in the AOC. Domaine Ponsot owns almost three hectares of this original 4.5-hectare clos. The rest of Ponsot’s holdings are within the Monts Luisants lieu-dit (which has always been bottled and sold as Clos de la Roche as it has the same soil, though it sits higher on the slope). The grapes from Monts Luisants add freshness to the natural power of the fruit from the original clos. Terroir aside, this wine is the reference point for the AOC. To us, it is not only Ponsot’s grandest wine but also one of the greatest red wines in Burgundy. Exactly how much of the quality is related to terroir and how much to vine age, plant material and the quality of the farming is impossible to separate, yet all these factors come together to create something truly remarkable these days. The 2020 is a “wow” wine: deep, fleshy, layered, complex and long, with a lingering dark-fruited, floral, Vosne-like spice and saline-noted finish. The notes below speak for themselves.

“The 2020 Clos de la Roche Vieilles Vignes has a beautiful, concentrated bouquet, predominantly red fruit intermingled with orange zest, blackcurrant and pressed iris flower. The palate is very well structured with fine tannins, real weight and depth, this Grand Cru seeming to fill every pore in the mouth. It just fans out marvellously with a residual spicy note lingering long after the wine has departed. Superb.”
96-98 points, Neal Martin, Vinous
“Averaging 65 years in age, these vines are found in the climats of Clos de la Roche (two-thirds) and Monts Luisants. The nose is exuberant with wild berries, smoke and spice. The palate adds on plums and cherries. Crackling acidity gives this medium-bodied wine with polished tannins as much refreshment as any white wine! Focused and aristocratic, this is thoroughly compelling.”
97 points, Christine Canterbury, Tim Atkin Burgundy Special Report
“The 2020 Clos de la Roche Grand Cru Cuvée Vieilles Vignes is brooding and powerful, unwinding in the glass with aromas of dark berries and cassis mingled with sweet spices, licorice, smoke and orange rind. Full-bodied, deep and muscular, with a broad attack that segues into a sweet core of fruit framed by ample reserves of rich, powdery tannins and lively acids, it concludes with a long, resonant finish. Predictably backward, this will require over a decade's patience.”
95+ points, William Kelley, The Wine Advocate
“Marvellous purple colour. The nose is seductively heady but with underlying class. Takes time to dig out, but there is a sensuality waiting to pounce. Much more together, rather less of a vinification style. It is still quite a brash fruit that comes out at the front of the palate, then the real wine further behind. The finish in particular shows style as well as persistence. Clearly the superior wine in the range.”
94-97 points, Jasper Morris MW, Inside Burgundy
Domaine Ponsot Grand Cru Clos de la Roche Vieilles Vignes 2020 (1500ml)
Maison Ponsot Grand Cru Clos de Vougeot Vieilles Vignes 2020

Maison Ponsot Grand Cru Clos de Vougeot Vieilles Vignes 2020

1999 was the first year this Grand Cru was offered by Domaine Ponsot. It derives from a tiny plot of 0.4 hectares of vines in Petit Maupertuis on the upper slope of the clos—very near Grands-Échezeaux—and from a smaller parcel of old vines in Quatorze Journaux, below the central part of Château de la Tour’s vines (in the middle of the vineyard). The vines have an average age of 50 years and always produce a stunning, leviathan rendition of the clos. The 2020 is a monumental classic: a deep, hedonistic blackcurrant-fruited wine with the powerful structure to ensure decades of aging.

“From Petit Maupertuis. Rich heady purple. The nose is excellent, with more open fruit than many of the Ponsot 2020s at this stage. Dark but not black fruit, an excellent thread of acidity which marries well with the fruit, ripe tannins, structure and stature and very attractive fruit.”
93-96 points, Jasper Morris MW, Inside Burgundy
“Aromas of red berries, plums and cassis mingled with exotic spices and incense introduce the 2020 Clos de Vougeot Grand Cru, a full-bodied, rich and layered wine that's muscular and vibrant, displaying considerable concentration and an abundance of ripe, powdery tannins. This is a very promising cuvée, but it will demand patience.”
93-95 points, William Kelley, The Wine Advocate
Maison Ponsot Grand Cru Clos de Vougeot Vieilles Vignes 2020
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“The results are as distinctive as the methods, but also profoundly impressive and proven to age magnificently… it is amazing how phenomenal Ponsot's wines can be.” Robert Parker

“Domaine Ponsot is flourishing under the new régime.” Tim Atkin MW

“Ponsot’s wines are amongst the Côte’s finest… Truly a five-star domaine.” Remington Norman, The Great Domaines of Burgundy

“One of the most distinguished domaines of the Côte de Nuits.” Anthony Hanson, Burgundy [Mitchell Beazley]

Country

France

Primary Region

Côte de Nuits

People

Winemaker: Alexandre Abel

Availability

National

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