If you wonder why Ponsot’s Mont Luisant is the “odd ball” in Burgundy here is the explanation;
1872, one of their line, a lawyer in Dijon, bought a domaine in Morey-Saint-Denis on behalf of his son, William. William died childless in 1926, but not before his god-child and nephew Hippolyte had been roped in to learn the metier and prepare himself for the succession. Hippolyte’s grandson, Laurent, born in 1954, has been in charge of Domaine Ponsot since 1983.
It was William Ponsot who created today’s Clos des Monts Luisants. Back in the 19th century Aligoté was widespread, planted alongside the Chardonnay in places as exalted as Corton-Charlemagne. But after the phylloxera epidemic and the economic depression which followed it growers increasingly filled up their white wine vineyards exclusively with Chardonnay. It ripened better and the wine fetched more money. William Ponsot had different ideas. He would persevere with Aligoté, and so in 1911 the one hectare of Clos de Monts Luisants was replanted with this variety.
Some time later, in the late 1930s, his successor Hippolyte decided to add some ‘Pinot Gouges’ to the vineyard. This is mutated Pinot Noir, found by Henri Gouges in his vineyards in Nuits-Saint-Georges, and reproduced by him in the premier cru Les Perrières. Gouges allowed Ponsot to take cuttings for his own use, and so for a time 15 percent or so of the encépagement in the Clos des Monts Luisants came from this rare and original mutation. As anyone who has tasted the Gouges wine will tell you, it bears absolutely no resemblance to Chardonnay.
This spontaneous change that can happen, just one branch of a vine may suddenly produce only ‘white’ grapes. This mutation is believed to have been the source of pinot blanc and pinot beurot (gris): A perfect example of this was the similar mutation of vine in Nuits St.Georges in the 1930′s from which cuttings were separated and planted in their own right. These white grapes are now known locally as ‘pinot gouges’, after the domain that found, planted and still exploits them – other sources call it pinot musigny. From a DNA perspective, beurot, blanc and gouges are to all intents and purposes the same as pinot noir.
Some time later the grape mix changed again: in the early 1950s Laurent’s father Jean-Marie added some 20 percent Chardonnay. So for a time the wine was made out of all three varieties, with the Aligoté making up around 60 perecnt of the total. In 1992 the old Pinot Gouges were ripped up, and following the 2004 harvest, after Laurent had done various tests, he abandoned the Chardonnay. From 2005, therefore, we have a 100 perecent Aligoté wine once again, and still from the original 1911 stocks.
The fruit is collected in wicker hods, the fruit later being transferred to plastic trays. The grapes are not de-stemmed, and pressed in an old vertical press (today most perfectionists consider that vertical presses are better than horizontal ones). After settling out in bulk the must is transformed into wine in old wooden barrels, without any deliberate cooling, so temperatures can rise to 30° or so, and rarely undergoes malo-lactic fermenation. It is then hardly interfered with no fining until bottling, which takes place after 22 months. Throughout the process the sulphur level is kept to the barest minimum. If any wines could be considered to be made without the use of sulphur, they are those of Laurent Ponsot.
Still this wine seems to be austere, not terribly despite the history, interesting at best but lacks the luster. Without undergoing malo lactic fermentation – it all makes sense – muted.