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Domaine Ponsot

ponsot.jpgOne of the great domaines in Burgundy, Domaine Ponsot - and indeed the charismatic Laurent Ponsot himself - certainly stands out from the crowd.  With a little over 11 hectares, Ponsot produce a surprising number of wines, including a number of grands crus (some of which, such as Montrachet, Batard-Montrachet and Chambertin 'Clos de Beze' are rarely seen).  However, it's not just the quantity of wines, nor even their [astounding] quality that makes Ponsot so noteworthy, at least to me.

Rather, it's the intrinsic philosophies and beliefs that Laurent himself holds, and strives to make wine to, that make Ponsot such an incredible address.

Let's start with the vineyards - where the vines are carefully managed using biologique methods, and old vine age is revered.  It is from Ponsot's vineyards (notably Clos de la Roche) that many of the clones used and revered by Pinot Noir makers the world over originate.  'Dijon' clones such as 667 and 777 were sourced from here.

With regards to Ponsot's own wines, the grapes are harvested late and are pressed in a vertical press (which is unusual, if not unique in Burgundy).  However most noteworthy for me is the eschewing of new oak for ageing of the wines.  Most barrels in Ponsot's cellars are at least 20 years old, and Laurent pointed out several that are more than 50 years of age.  They have all been used continually, with minimal cleaning (Laurent pointing out that bacteria is primarily a problem with unused, empty barrels) by burning a little sulphur in them - they are not shaved or renewed otherwise.  This flies in the face of usual techniques, where many (or most) employ high percentages - often 100% - of new oak each vintage, often irrespective of vintage conditions or fruit quality.ponsot-cellar-roots.jpg

The cellars were expanded about a decade ago, allowing the use of gravity rather than pumping juice, and most interestingly, exposing the roots of vines planted above the winery - some 30 meters higher - that show how deeply the roots of old vines penetrate the limestone soils (see photo on right).

Whilst the prices for the wines - all of them, but especially the grands crus - can be very high, they are undoubtedly of exceptional quality, and rightly deserve to be considered amongst the very best in Burgundy.  Apart from the usual Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, there is a little Aligote made here - the 100% Aligote premier cru Monts Luisants (which is really a plot within Clos de la Roche).

Finally, it must be mentioned that Ponsot are one of the leaders in attempting to prevent and counter wine fraud as well as provide quality control (via the use of temperature-sensitive colour dots on labels) of their wines.  In a world where such aspects are often ignored, this is extremely commendable, even if the results have not always succeeded perfectly (one batch of the temperature dots was faulty).

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