Laurent Ponsot - Burgundy’s Most Exciting Producer
Wednesday, July 7, 2021 in News
Ned Goodwin, Master of Wine writes for Langton’s about Laurent Ponsot and the revolutionary Burgundy producer’s establishment in the Langton’s and Endeavour wine portfolio. Explore Laurent Ponsot now.
Explore Laurent Ponsot now.
Laurent Ponsot needs little introduction. The legendary Domaine Ponsot is responsible for among the most sought after Burgundies, each embedded with a deep heritage as much as a strict fidelity to their Morey Saint Denis roots. His more recent project, simply named Laurent Ponsot, is autonomous to the Domaine which he left in 2017. With this, Ponsot seeks to strengthen the continuum between the land that he knows so intimately and the stellar wines upon which his reputation is founded. Only this time, in a more democratic manner, resulting in a suite of expressions as intricately detailed as it is more affordable.
After all, Ponsot understands that the dynamic in Burgundy today is very different to that of yore. He has become frustrated by a reality that sees more of the region’s wines held as investments than being enjoyed at the table. His new operation, thus, places as much importance on regional Bourgogne and communal wines, as it does on the top crus.
Ponsot is also aware of the shifting status of the negociant, the importance of which was largely eclipsed by the introduction of domain bottling in the 1970s, at least in the traditional sense of the role. Today, the importance of the negociant has been reignited. Albeit, under a different guise. The stratospheric cost of land on the Côte d’Or, invidious Napoleonic inheritance laws and the sheer scarcity of viticultural zones means that growing grapes and crafting wine, once a regional birthright, is now a prohibitively expensive pursuit even for Burgundians. It also means that the price of top Burgundy is largely out of reach for all but the world’s wealthiest collectors.
‘...affordability at the top end.’
Ponsot’s efforts to intimate affordability at the top end, together with Langton’s exclusive import and distribution rights to the Laurent Ponsot range, are reasons for optimism!
With this in mind, Ponsot’s intimate knowledge of landscapes and terroirs as a maker, his capacity to navigate them as a trained pilot, and his long-term relationships with those growers best equipped to maximise them in pursuit of superlative material, positions him in an enviable cockpit. As a newly anointed negociant, but also a landholder with seven hectares of vines, he has significant control over both sourcing avenues. In fact, all of the former non-domaine wines have followed him to his new address, in Gilly les Citeaux. These include leasing contracts in Griottes-Chambertin, Chambertin, Clos St. Denis and Chambolle-Charmes, among others. It is a position that has made his transition from his family’s prosperous domaine to his own independent project; a mellifluous move as much as one born of an inner moral compass, albeit, an audacious one.
‘...he is not willing to ‘be bullied by’ his wines.’
After all, the Laurent Ponsot project is founded on a number of missives: to work more closely with his immediate family, particularly his son Clément; to source the best fruit across a litany of top sites, transcending the access of any domaine or other negoçiant without compromising quality; and to deliver the resultant wines at accessible pricing with his inimitable, minimalist approach incorporating late harvesting, very little sulphur, ambient yeasts, zero new oak and long lees handling, resulting in curvaceous wines of immaculate poise. As Ponsot opines, ‘…as a negoçiant, we are committed to proactively sourcing the very best raw materials to produce value haute couture wines.’ He also quips that, as a former hippie, he is not willing to ‘be bullied by’ his wines.
To achieve his goals Ponsot has complemented his access to top vineyards and fruit with a crack team. Moreover, in a region often stuck in that nebulous zone somewhere between culture, heritage and progress, the Laurent Ponsot project has embraced multi-parcel blends to glean what he believes to be the essence of the terroirs. For example, he has expressed his desire to make a Beaune Premier Cru as a blend of eight Premier Cru sites!
‘...a thrilling level of technology.’
To this we can add Ponsot’s embrace of a thrilling level of technology. This includes the use of recyclable technological closures that deem cork taint, the reductive edge, and excessively long ageing window promoted by screw caps, things of the past. In addition, all of the Grand Cru bottlings contain an NFC micro-chip within the capsule. It can be authenticated by scanning with a smartphone, changing its IP address each time it is read, making forgeries impossible. Finally, the cases containing Grand Cru wines are fitted with a temperature sensor, recording the temperature every three-hours for 15 years, instilling confidence in the end drinker that the wines have been cared for properly.
If this is not enough, alternatives to barrel ageing for both white and red wines are being explored. These will ensure that no impurities are conveyed from barrels to finished wines, while ensuring that oxygen ingress is sufficient to facilitate the natural passage of ageing.
It is clear that while Laurent Ponsot respects the paragon of the world’s most intricate terroir, the determinant of Burgundy, he is willing to reshape the paradigms that dictate its traditions in pursuit of better and more affordable wines. Ponsot is a strident democrat in pursuit of wines for the people. Long may he reign.
Explore the more exciting wines in Burgundy with Laurent Ponsot.