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Average critic rating : 99.0 points
Ponsot's Clos de la Roche Vieilles Vignes may turn out to be a perfect wine. It requires 6-7 years of cellaring and will last for 25-35 years, rare indeed for modern day red Burgundy. It possesses an extract level rarely seen today in Burgundy. It is awesome, compelling, profound, and da da da da da.... Words simply do not do this wine justice. Take the 1990, build on the concentration level, and what you have is the 1993. Perhaps it is not economically viable to make wines from such low yields, but this is what great wine-making is all about. It is a shame so few people will ever have the opportunity to taste it.|While I am a great believer that low yielding, highly concentrated Pinot Noir deserves plenty of toasty new oak, there is not one new oak barrel to be found in Ponsot's cellar. The average age of the barrels is between 30-60 years, thus proving that there is at least one exception to the rule that the greatest red Burgundies are kept in new oak casks!|Note: Ponsot also makes and bottles wines for the Domaine des Chezeaux.|The good news is that Ponsot's 1993s are spectacular wines, as stunning as his prodigious 1990s. The bad news is that his yields were minuscule, with the average for all his vineyards approximately 20 hectoliters per hectare, or just over one ton per acre. For some of the grand crus, yields were so tiny that the number of cases that will make it to America is preposterously low. For example, yields for the Clos St.-Denis vineyard were 8 hectoliters per hectare, for Clos de la Roche, 18 hectoliters per hectare, and for Griotte-Chambertin, 23 hectoliters per hectare. Laurent Ponsot stated that only 48 bottles of Chambertin were allocated to America, 24 bottles of Clos St.-Denis (only 400 bottles were produced), and less than 30 cases of Clos de la Roche Vieilles Vignes. It is not that the United States is getting screwed in the allocation system, but just that so little wine was produced. My reviews are, therefore, largely of academic interest.|Importer: Vineyard Brands, Chester, VT; tel. (802) 875-2139 Wine Advocate.August, 1995
Domaine Ponsot: The Importance
It is fair to say that Laurent Ponsot makes some of the best wines in Burgundy, fully exploiting a roster of some of the most profound sites. Based in Morey-St-Denis and with a long and very illustrious history, the domaine is the largest owner in Clos de la Roche and their 60-year-old vines are responsible for wines of simply staggering complexity, with layer upon layer of flavour. Robert Parker finds that “the wines from this domaine can be absolutely staggering … These are perhaps the most powerful wines in Burgundy, profoundly impressive and proven to age magnificently.” While for Allen Meadows the domaine has produced numerous “wow” wines, and driven other critics to poetic exaltations.
Domaine Ponsot: The Insight
Ponsot’s proprietary Grand Cru Clos St. Denis Vieilles Vignes (labelled as Trés Vieilles Vignes from 2006 onwards, since when the average vine age exceeded 100 years) has been described as “breathtakingly good” by Allen Meadows, regularly achieving superlative praise from every critic, such as Antonio Galloni, who credits the 1985 with “a multitude of aromas, flavors and sensations which mere words fail to capture,” but also commends recent vintages such as the 2008.
The true star of the domaine is the Clos de la Roche Vieilles Vignes, made from what Allen Meadows calls a “whopping” 3.4 hectare holding in this legendary Grand Cru in Morey-Saint-Denis. The 1971 got 100 points from Neil Martin in January 2016, while the 2005 vintage of this great vineyard stirred Allen Meadows to hyperbole at 99 points: “Given how many reference standard vintages Domaine Ponsot has produced of the Clos de la Roche over the years, it would be presumptuous to anoint this as the best ever but if it isn't, it will certainly take its rightful place among the very greatest,” while more recent vintages have been deemed no less promising.
On the slopes just above Clos de la Roche, the domaine produces the only Premier Cru Aligoté in Burgundy. Laurent Ponsot explains with justifiable pride how in 1911 his grandfather Hyppolite Ponsot planted a single hectare of Aligoté in Monts Luisants, a plot that visibly “shines” every autumn when the Aligoté leaves turn yellow. The vineyard name translates as “The Shining Hills.” While others grow Pinot Noir here to make Morey-Saint-Denis Monts Luisants Villages, Ponsot’s Morey-Saint-Denis Clos des Monts Luisants Premier Cru is a Monopole of the domaine, “truly unique, with all the same depth, interest, class and aging potential of the best of the Chardonnays of Meursault and Puligny-Montachet,” according to Clive Coates.
Ponsot also produces a host of Grands Crus thanks to an extensive list of domaine holdings and sharecropping relationships with vineyards in Chambertin, Griotte-Chambertin, Chapelle-Chambertin, Chabertin Clos de Bèze and Clos de Vougeot in the Côte de Nuits, as well as Montrachet and Corton-Charlemagne in the Côte de Beaune. For a preliminary foray into the Ponsot style, Morey-Saint-Denis Premier Cru and the Morey-Saint-Denis Cuvée des Grives are highly recommended, being produced for many years in Ponsot’s home village.
Domaine Ponsot: The Background
In terms of winemaking, Laurent Ponsot is an intellectual, an experimenter, and a risk-taker. Fruit is harvested late for maximum ripeness, though in some vintages such as 1993 this results in large swathes of the production being de-classified. When the grapes are brought in they are gently sulphured and kept under inert gas, but after fermentation they are not exposed to any SO2 at all, even at bottling. No new oak is used whatsoever for the élevage, with the youngest barrels purchased at ten years of age.
Innovation has always been key at Domaine Ponsot. In the 1930’s Hyppolite Ponsot worked with the Marquis D’Angerville and Henri Gouges to draft Burgundy’s current appellation system; he was also among the first to understand the importance of vine material, and the “Dijon Clones” used around the world today orgininate from his cuttings. In 1989 Ponsot became the first winery in the world to have its own website, designed by Laurent Ponsot, who remains fiercely dedicated to guaranteeing the consumer’s high-quality experience of his wines in every possible way. Since 1999 all bottles have been released with heat-sensitive ink dots on the label, designed to change colour if a bottle is subjected to extreme temperature fluctuations. More dramatically, in April 2008 Laurent Ponsot was thrust into the limelight when he received an email from a friend alerting him to the sale at auction of a 1945 Ponsot Clos Saint-Denis, which the domaine did not produce until 1982. This caused him to travel to New York City, appearing at the auction house “like Banquo’s ghost,” according to one eye-witness, and demand the counterfeit bottles be taken off sale. Ponsot has since invested in state-of-the-art anti-forgery technologies.
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