Profile: Laurent Ponsot (Gilly)

Update 26.6.2018(11.6.2018)billn

Tasted in Gilly les Citeaux with Laurent Ponsot – right with son Clément – 30 May 2018.

Laurent Ponsot SAS
10 Rue Des Cerisiers
ZA Petite Champagne
21640 Gilly Les Citeaux
Tel: +33 3 80 41 03 27

It has been well documented that Laurent Ponsot left the family domaine in a surprise move last year and that he has chosen to start a-new with his son Clément. Despite multiple versions of ‘why’ I choose not to speculate and Laurent remains tight-lipped on the subject. Yet, he and Clément have landed on their feet – all the non-domaine wines that previously wore a Domaine Ponsot label have followed the pair to Gilly – that includes long-term productions (since 1982) such as the metayage contracts of Griotte-Chambertin, Chambertin, Clos St.Denis and Chambolle-Charmes – amongst others.

Laurent remains a ‘loup’ with the wolf image on the wall of his office. But he says that everything here is about the future – talking of that, the label! The first vintage – 2015 – is something of a transition vintage given the move to Gilly. First the new labels are worth commenting on – green and silver-grey, bearing the words (translated) ‘year zero!’ Their style is certainly something special; I can imagine that way back in 1990 when Grivot unveiled their new label, that many people were taken aback by the change – today that label is iconic. Let’s see if the same happens with Laurent’s new approach! “The green colour is of the young leaves of the vines, the grey of the cellar when the wines sleep.” The same Ardea seal as previously used at the domaine is retained – but now coloured black and green! The 2016s, which have only just been bottled, are in new bottles that have ‘Laurent Ponsot’ embossed in their base – like the bottles of Domaine Ponsot – though I think the new bottles came too late for the 2015s.

They have begun with about 20 cuvées – “We made 47,000 bottles in 2016 vs 45,000 average at the domaine. All allocated and 65% of the allocations are already accepted. But we can’t do more than 500,000 bottles given the limitations of space here” smiles Laurent! “Everything changes, but doesn’t – my passion hasn’t changed. Not only did I not retire or die – I heard both – but I feel 10 years younger and my son is with me too. I left for personal reasons which I wont disclose, but I did it after much thought. I asked my clients what they wanted and like – though I won’t make anything that I won’t myself buy in a restaurant! My key is the sourcing – I am a négociant and I say that directly, despite having some of my own vines, but I want to make Haute-Couture wines, even from several suppliers for one appellation, so sometimes that makes for a great view of an appellation. For instance I plan to make a Beaune 1er Cru but from 8 different crus!

“I used to be a hippy so. I hate aggression in a wine – so I won’t be buying wine randomly – I want to know whats behind it. Like before, all the wines will be produced with no new oak – there is no make-up from the barrels so it’s just the terroir that speaks.

I asked Laurent about his previous innovations – Temperature sensitive inks, tracking cases, embossed bottles et-cetera; “I’ve kept all the innovation from my previous work; the thermal dot on the label too for instance, with Laurent Ponsot embossed on the bottom of the bottles. I’m still working with tracking cases, each capsule will have a chip that’s linked to the one in the case, the temperature et-cetera measured every 3 hours for 15 years and the IP-address changes every time the chip is read.

More blue-sky is Laurent’s plan to build here, in Gilly, his Villa Vinum, a combination of visitor centre, winery and restaurant with a view across to vines. The Ponsot wines will be available here, but otherwise the name Ponsot will not be part of the public areas. The finance for this large project is not to be underestimated, but Laurent confirms his greatest delays are for the paperwork for authorisation – this is France, of-course!

The wines…

Despite the change of address, and presumably plenty of logistic issues to overcome at the start, frankly the wines here are indistinguishable in both style and quality to what we have become accustomed from Laurent Ponsot in his Domaine Ponsot days. He has surely been helped by a super 2016 vintage – if not always in quantity. Simply a super selection of wines – previous fans will be delighted that it’s more of the same from him…

Laurent affirms that his wines will only now be tasted after bottling – no tours of the barrel-cellar with a pipette, but confides “I’m so happy that the first vintage of my new life is like this – I don’t think that I’ve lost my recipe!

2016 Bourgogne Blanc Cuvée du Perce Neige
‘This is new, and I give no information, the only thing that is important is that I will never declassify wine to make the label better…’
Hmm, a nice almost textured width but of modest intensity. Hmm (again), energy, a nice structure, with a juicy intensity of finishing flavour…

2016 St.Romain Cuvée de la Passiflore
I won’t make this wine again. I like the wine very much, but I had too-many opportunities in Meursault.
A brightness and core of riper fruit. Extra volume, a little more energy, changing flavour, a little structure in the finishing texture and long too. Delicious.

2016 Meursault Cuvée du Pandoréa
A little less aromatic width, faintly floral. Hmm, this is wide, vibrant wine. I would say a little Meursault spiced, with a depth and intensity that holds beautifully in the finish, and its a great finish.

2016 Meursault-Blagny Cuvée du Myosotis
There are also Meursault cuvées of Genevrières, Charmes and Perrieres
A vibration of mineral reduction on the nose. Extra volume again in the mouth, vibrant, faintly reductive energy – it shimmers over the palate. Slowly fading in the style of the previous Meursault – and this is also a great finish. A beauty.

2016 Meursault-Charmes Cuvée de la Centaurée
Lots of separate purchases in the vineyard, assembled.
Much more depth of aroma, more composed and calm after the Blagny. Width, texture, such a beautiful line, a laser, of flavour running through this wine. The finish has less impact than the last wines but no less length – a long slow diminuendo – yes!

2016 Corton-Charlemage Cuvée du Kalimeris
A wide and fresh nose with just a little vibration to the aroma – agrume style. Instantly filling the mouth – a faint cushion of sweetness to the powerful structure, purity. Small waves of finishing flavour that are very attractive. Really super.

Les rouges
The bottlings were all completed about one month ago, done between February and May; “As always I wait until the wine is ready, and all the wines are different – the bottling dates are chosen by tasting rather than analysis – if it’s unchanged for a month then it’s probably ready… perversely for the wines, given climate warming, we can actually bottle a month earlier than was the case in the early 1990s.

2016 Bourgogne Rouge Cuvée des Peupliers
Here a nice, almost mineral and graphite width of aroma, opening with air adding more redness of fruit. Supple, a first texture with a little grip and thereafter more cushioned. Long, a little muscle and a brightness of finish in the last wave of flavour. Very good length.

2016 Gevrey-Chambertin Cuvée de l’Aulne
A silkier nose, also of good width though less forward than the Bourgogne. Supple again, with depth of flavour, a little less edge to the initial texture, almost a creamy depth to the fruit like you might get from older vines. Lovely.

2016 Chambolle-Musigny Cuvée de la Violette
Only 13hl/ha in this vintage.
Depth of aroma and an extra height of fresh fruit, almost but not quite floral. Extra volume and energy here – the last was about texture this is more about vibrant flavour. Yes there’s a slight rasp of finishing tannin, but it’s really nothing…

2016 Chambolle-Musigny 1er Les Charmes Cuvée du Tileul
Extra depth of colour. A modest volume of aroma yet round, growing ever-more into the glass, filling it with more and more concentration of aroma. Ooh a wine that seems to go in two directions because it’s not round but it is wide and it is also long – it has a line of flavour. Concentrated flavour but only faintly textured. Pure fruit. An absolutely delicious infant!

2016 Clos de Vougeot Cuvée du Cèdre
Lots of freshness, almost structural – three providers here – if you wait there is almost a suggestion of florality. Direct, frank, fresh, growing in intensity, then growing more. Open, sustaining a strong flavour into the finish, slowly fading. Excellent, but really to wait for…

2016 Griotte-Chambertin Cuvée du Saule
Big colour here. Hmm, almost a blueberry nose and with such depth too – this is the most overt nose since the Chambolle-Charmes. Nicely structured, ingraining flavour – so much concentration here. The finish is impressively sustained. Bravo, great wine…
2016 Clos St.Denis Cuvée du Merisier
Like the Griotte and the Chambolle-Charmes – so deeply coloured. Here there is depth of aroma if less impact but more flashes of fine complexity. Ooh, there’s that faint gooseberry note that I sometimes get with this wine, fine, very fine forward tannin. There’s a relaxed depth of concentrated flavour and quite the most majestic finish! The nose is becoming more joined up and silky… ‘It’s a one the best wines of the vintage this year’ smiles Laurent. Great wine indeed…

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