Jean-Baptiste Ponsot Rully 'en Bas de Vauvry' 2018
Stony-dry minerality, smokiness sublimated by a very elegant and creamy toasted aging. Great finesse and tension, a hallmark of Ponsot whites. All the complexity of the premier crus! Aged 12 months in barrels (one-third new oak) and 3 months of assembly in mass (15% of tank, 20% of new barrels and the rest in barrels of 1 to 4 wines).
Every village in Burgundy has its locomotive, its driving force, it’s star producer. Some are famous and take center stage. Others are more reserved, discreet, working behind the scenes and leading by example. Jean-Baptiste Ponsot in Rully is perhaps the best example of the latter that we have ever met.
Rully, in the Cote Chalonnaise, makes twice as much white as it does red. But it has soils apt for both. Iin Rully, there are village appellation vineyards, as well as premier crus, producing great wines in both Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
And Jean-Baptiste Ponsot works several of the best-positioned parcels.
The domain started in 1954 with Jean-Baptiste’s grandfather producing grapes as one of several crops on his polyculture farm. Jean-Baptiste’s father took the step to monoculture, and grapes, and then wine, became the only crop.
Jean-Baptiste took the reins at age 20, and in 2005 built a purpose-made winery and cellars. Today the domain works 8.5 ha (20 acres) on the best slopes in the appellation, two-thirds in premier cru and a third in appellation Rully; two-thirds white and a third red.
Vineyard work is best described as ‘sustainable’, with no herbicides used, and rigorous, meticulous farming to enhance soil quality. High quality, beautiful fruit is the goal. So there is strict control of yields, aeration of the grape bunches as the season develops, selective pruning (depending on the plot), an increased leaf height to protect from frosts, and leaf stripping to allow maximum exposure to sunlight.
In the cellar, wines are left 12 months in oak, one third new, then assembled en masse for another 3 to 6 months, depending on the vintage. Jean-Baptiste says that this resting period is what accounts for the elegant tension that is found in his wines.
His stated goal is to increase quality year after year by respect for the environment and responsible farming.
En Bas de Vauvry
This plot of 2 hectares and 83 acres in the Rully Village appellation was acquired by Jean-Baptiste’s great-grandfather in 1910. Formerly a meadow, vineyard plantations only started in 2000, ending in 2009. He and his father planted these vines in white and red: 2 hectares and 33 acres in Chardonnay, 50 acres in Pinot Noir. « En Bas de Vauvry" is one of the few Rully appellation plots to be located in the heart of the historic Premiers Cru hillside of the appellation, and is considered one of the best village appellation parcels .
This vine plot is exposed East - Southeast, on average slope. Its subsoil is composed of an oxfordian substratum of white marls and marly limestones dominated by so-called oolitic limestones of "Nantoux", whose colluvial scree participate in the coarse fraction of soils. Its soil is brown, limestone, very stony, with a fine marly fraction.
This 2 hectare vineyard is located in the Rully Premier Cru appellation area and belongs to the domain since 1954. This parcel was planted in Pinot Noir by Jean-Baptiste’s father and grandfather from 1978 to 1988 for a part, then by his father and him after that, when it was enlarged. In 2011, Jean Baptiste also bought an additional 1 hectare of Chardonnay which had been planted in 1975.
Molesme is a very generous ground plot, which does not fear drought. It is exposed East - Southeast, with a flatter topography of Piedmont. Its subsoil is composed of an oxfordian substratum of lithographic and oolitic limestone. Its soil is reddish brown calcareous, partly colluvial, with satisfactory hydric regime but with a possibility of seasonal karstic resurgence very localized in this plot.
This beautiful plot of Rully Premier Cru belongs to the domain since 1952, on a surface of 1 hectare and 71 ares. Montpalais was planted in Chardonnay by
Jean-Baptiste’s father and grandfather in 1954. It is therefore a vine that is pruned in simple guyot. This plot never freezes, but is very prone to erosion because its slope is strong: it therefore requires special vigilance
This vine plot is exposed East - Southeast on a regular slope but rather pronounced. Its subsoil is composed of an oxfordian substratum of white marls and marly limestones dominated by oolitic and lithographic so-called "de Nantoux" limestones, whose colluvial screes participate in the coarse fraction of soils. Its soil is brown, limestone, very stony, with a fine marly fraction.
BURGUNDY 2018 VINTAGE
There has been talk over the past year of the 2018 vintage in Burgundy being one of the greatest of all time. Comparisons with the mythical 1947, and all that. But let’s be careful and take a closer look.
We’ve tasted some marvelous wines, both white and red, and from all of the appellation levels. Purity and concentration would be the key words across the board.
But lest we forget, 2018 was the hottest vintage in Burgundy since 2003. And frankly, we were expecting wines like we got in 2003: flabby whites and Cote du Rhone-like reds. But that did not happen. And the secret to understanding 2018 Burgundy lies in understanding the difference between these two very hot years.
If you look at 2018 from start to finish, not only was it hot, it was dry: 50% less precipitation than the annual average over the past 30 years. However, if you were here in the early part of the year, you’ll certainly remember the rain.
After a very dry summer in 2017, winter 2017-18 was wet. It rained nearly every day through March and into April. And the vine was slow to bud.
That all changed in the middle of April. Wet soil and higher temperatures brought on explosive growth in the vineyards that the vignerons had a tough time keeping up with. In a week we went from bud burst to unfurled leaves.
The first flowers burst in mid-May. The crop set regularly with very little disruption, and summer settled in. The early wet conditions followed by April’s warmth saw the onset of mildew, but the fungus never stood a chance.
It was a hot and sunny summer. Some would say it was a heat wave and a drought. And we started to see signs of stress in vineyards in certain sectors. Things were better where there was a little rain. But August was bone dry. In fact, there was no rain from June 15th to the end of October.
It was about this time that comparisons to 2015 cropped up. You could see ripeness rapidly approaching, and there was talk of harvest starting at the end of August.
The vines were incredibly healthy; no moisture means no threat from mildew or odium. No rot. Good ripeness.
And, for the first time since 2009….a normal yield! So, let the harvest begin!
And it did, in the last days of August. What was most astonishing right from the start was that the perceived acidity levels seem OK. Granted, there’s no malic acid, but the levels of tartaric acid seem to be compensating, and there is an over-all impression of balance.
Also amazing was the amount of juice the crop produced. Not only was the yield bigger than the past 10 years’ average, but the amount of juice set a record for Burgundy. So there will be a lot of 2018 around.
And all this in a year that felt more like the south of Spain than Burgundy as we know it. The only thing we can attribute the quality of 2018 to is the abundant winter rains, and the vine’s ability to go searching for water when it needs it.
The village of Rully is situated at the extreme northern end of the department of the Saone et Loire. But tasting the wine it produces, you would think you are still in the Cote d'Or. 15 km from Chalon sur Saone and the wine production zone around the village of Mercurey, south west of Maranges and in the sphere of Chagny, Rully sits at the foot of the Montagne de la Folie, a limestone ridge running north to south and dividing the village from neighboring appellation Bouzeron.
Produced in the communes of Rully and Chagny, appellation Rully includes 23 premiers crus.
Rully white is gold flecked with green, and deepens with age. It should be very floral with notes of hedgerow flowers (acacia, may, honeysuckle and elderflower) as well as lemon acidity, and ripe peach fleshiness on smoky flint minerality. There are several very serious sections of white wine production in the village. Time brings out honey, quince, and dried fruits. These wines should be full of lively round fruit.
Reds should be ruby through to black cherry with a bouquet of black fruits (blackcurrant, blackberry and black cherry) plus liquorice and perfumed floral notes. On the palate, there can be firm tannins, giving the wine a defined structure.
Subtle differences in the wines are due to differences in soil, exposure and altitude, all of which vary considerably in the zone around the village of Rully. At heights of 230-300 meters, the slopes produce wines which can compete with the best wines of the nearby Côte de Beaune. Generally, Pinot Noir is grown on brown or limey soils with little clay in their make-up. Chardonnay prefers a clay-limestone soil.
White wines - Chardonnay
Red wines - Pinot Noir
Production surface area
1 hectare (ha) = 2.4 acres
Whites : 223.56 ha (including 58.81 ha Premier Cru)
Reds : 133.47 ha (including 37.19 ha Premier Cru)
The fruit of white Rully calls for delicate. tender food. As the Saone River is just across the plain to the east, you often see river fish, sauteed and in wine or butter sauces or fine Bresse poultry in creamy sauces. It adapts well to hard cheeses such as Comté.
The reds surprise by their structure, at once solid (they can be closed early on) and fruit filled, they match well with roasted poultry, or offal (liver, sweetbreads, kidneys) in sauce or simply sauteed. Risotto and pasta with meat can have the richness to smooth down the firm tannins of a young Rully.
On the label, the appellations 'Rully' and 'Rully 1er Cru' may be followed by the name of a specific vineyard, known as a climat.
The following climats are classified as premier cru:
Clos du Chaigne
Clos St Jacques
Le Meix Cadot
Le Meix Caillet
The following climats are village wines from a single vineyard, know as a lieu-dit.
Bas de Vauvery
Bas des Chênes
Meix de Pellerey
Moulin à Vent