Laurent Ponsot, the fourth-generation winemaker at Burgundy’s Domaine Ponsot, has unexpectedly walked away from the family business. In an exclusive interview with Wine Spectator, he would not disclose why he was leaving, but announced that he is establishing his own winery. “This is not what I expected in this period of my life,” said Ponsot, 60. “I am old enough to retire, but I did not retire. I am starting a new winery with my oldest son, Clément.”
The name of the new enterprise, registered as a négociant, is simply Laurent Ponsot. It will be based in the village of Gilly-Lès-Citeaux, site of a historic Cistercian monastery. "I own my own vines, and I have joint ventures with my friends," Ponsot said, adding that "négociant is not a bad word. Nearly all the major wine producers in Burgundy are négociants. For tax purposes, it is much easier to be a négociant." The first Laurent Ponsot wines are expected to reach retailers by the end of this year.
Domaine Ponsot, based in Morey-St.-Denis, produces wine from 12 grand cru vineyards. It is the largest single owner in the grand cru Clos de la Roche. Laurent built a successful travel agency in Paris before returning to the domaine in 1981 to work with his father, Jean-Marie Ponsot, now 90.
Ownership of the domaine is shared by Laurent and his sisters Rose-Marie, Catherine and Stéphanie Ponsot. "I am still owner of 25 percent of the domaine,” Laurent said. He said he does not know who will make the wines now.
The domaine and Laurent grabbed international attention nine years ago when he stopped the sale of 22 lots of wine labeled as iconic vintages of Domaine Ponsot at an Acker Merrall & Condit auction in New York, declaring the wines counterfeit. All the wine had been consigned by Rudy Kurniawan. Ponsot testified at Kurniawan’s 2013 trial.
Ponsot did not reveal why he has split from his family domaine. But one Burgundy insider told Wine Spectator that a sale of the domaine could now be in the offing: "As a minority shareholder, you could get a regular dividend which is a relative pittance. Or you could sell the domaine for a fortune."
Laurent Ponsot's initial lineup includes seven reds and nine white wines, including the red grands crus Chambertin, Griotte-Chambertin, and Clos St.-Denis, and the premier cru Chambolle-Musigny Les Charmes. The whites are led by the grands crus Montrachet and Corton-Charlemagne, followed by the Meursault premiers crus Genevrières, Charmes, Perrières and Blagny. "There will probably be more," said Ponsot.
"Despite that this situation is not what I expected in this period of my life, I am OK," Ponsot said.