Jean-Baptiste Ponsot Rully 'en Bas de Vauvry' 2019
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 2019 VINTAGE
There’s a popular saying here in Burgundy which points out that, since the start of the 20th century, vintages ending in ‘9’ have been exceptional. So when 2019 came around, we were secretly anticipating something special. Little did we know!
Every vintage comes with its own hyperbole: best of the decade; greatest of the century; another 1990. And it’s true, as the climate continues to warm, there has been some remarkable wine produced in recent years. But in Burgundy in 2019, it got hot.
Both Pinot Noir and Chardonnay like to come to maturity slowly. Too much heat cooks the elegance out of them. So climate change is an existential issue for Burgundy wine as we know it.
But in 2019 something remarkable happened. I hesitate to call it a paradigm shift; it may well be a one-off. But in a year where, in some places, grapes turned to raisins on the vine, Burgundy has given us a vintage worthy of the hyperbole.
You won’t find many lacey, delicate wines this year. The vintage will be unapologetically bold and unbelievably concentrated. The whites are indulgent, often explosive, and pinned to a mind-bogglingly good acidic framework, given the summer heat. The reds are sophisticated and elegant, alive.
Perhaps most tellingly, despite the hot summer, this was not one of those late-August harvests that we’re getting accustomed to. The harvest got underway in the Cote de Beaune on 12 September. And some in the Cote de Nuits did not begin picking until the 23rd. The fruit was ripe earlier, but the fine conditions allowed the growers to wait for the holy grail: phenolic maturity.
You rarely get fruit maturity (the sugar part of the equation) plus phenolic maturity (the tannins in the pips and stems) coming together at the same time. Usually you sacrifice one for the other. You can’t force it to happen. Nature bestows it upon you. But when it does happen, that, almost by definition, is a great vintage.
2019 will be a great vintage. Think 2018 with more energy. The only downside is that, as opposed to the bumper crop we saw in 2018, 2019 was a small crop. Down by as much as 60% in the southern zones where it was hottest.
Let’s look quickly at how the season developed. The winter 2018/19 was mild, with higher than average temperatures in December and February. There was a lot of rain in December which many claim could ultimately have saved the vintage from the summer’s drought.
Spring was warm and the growth cycle started earlier than usual. There were precocious zones with bud burst in early April. But cold weather set in on 5 April with frost in many areas. Frost damage would have an effect on yields, particularly in the Maconnais. The cold weather held on through mid-April with several consequential frost risks.
Warm weather returned in May and remained until early June when temperatures dropped again, slowing growth again and hindering flowering. There was a good bit of flower abortion (millerandage), which, again, took its part of the yield at harvest.
Then mid-summer was hot-hot And dry-dry. The vines, for the most part, were in good shape going into the heat wave, but the stress was excessive. Vines handled the conditions differently from one plot to the next. Consensus is that old vines, with their deep roots, were able to find water in the subsoil. And that younger, well-tended vines, had a similar advantage. Vines with roots that went looking for water near the surface, however, suffered towards the end of the season, as they scorched and shriveled.
There was just a bit of rain in August, and from then on through September was hot but fine. In certain areas Pinot Noir ripened before Chardonnay, so harvest planning was complicated. The first Cremant vineyards were picked at the very end of August, and the harvest continued through to mid-October.
Harvest was a joy for the most part. Good weather. No disease. And the fruit that survived frost and fire was beautiful. Fermentation in both white and red went off easily. Whites finished slowly, gently, giving balance and purity. The length of red fermentation varied a lot, but the tannins are fine and the wine has vigor.
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