Ponsot’s seal of approval
I was fascinated to taste a new range of Burgundies from the revered Domaine Ponsot (tastings) late last year and to hear the background to Ponsot’s use of the cork alternative, ArdeaSeal. This is a synthetic closure which is inserted into the bottle neck just like a normal cork or synthetic stopper, and is made of four pieces: a central core of soft material into which you insert your corkscrew, a hard cylindrical piece which contains the core, the outer capsule-like component, and a transparent, soft shield which sits on the lower tip and contacts the wine. The seal can be re-inserted into the opened bottle like a normal cork and is easy to extract using a conventional corkscrew. Those who value the ‘pop’ sound of a cork will not be disappointed.
Apart from short-circuiting cork-taint, ArdeaSeal is said to guard against the widely variable oxygen admission of natural cork which can lead to premature oxidation.
The only Australian winery that’s used ArdeaSeal to my knowledge is the Yarra Valley’s Mac Forbes (tastings), but he has stopped using it and is now using mostly natural cork, with screw-cap on his cheaper wines.
The value of the ArdeaSeal was demonstrated at the tasting I attended, when a pre-ArdeaSeal 2001 vintage Clos de la Roche was found to be oxidised and musty. Fortunately, there was a second bottle.
The Ponsot wines are breathtakingly expensive, but wonderful wines in a very fresh, clean, tight, fruit-driven and often quite high-acid style. They age very slowly and seem to have great longevity. The reds are made without stems, which probably enhances their freshness and brightness.
Interestingly, Ponsot uses minimal sulfur dioxide and in fact, the 2013 Corton-Charlemagne grand cru that we tasted had had no added SO2. And it was magnificent. (It also contained 30% aligoté, but I digress.) Said importer Rob Walters:
“The idea is not to make natural wine but to intervene only when he (Laurent Ponsot) has to. He adds no SO2 unless it’s necessary. It’s all about terroir and quality.”
He also quoted Ponsot explaining his attitude to routine sulfur dioxide addition:
“I don’t wake up in the morning and take Disprin just in case I get a headache.”
So, the combination of ArdeaSeal – used since 2008 – and minimal sulfur might be seen by some as risky, even foolhardy, but it seems to work chez Ponsot.