Liquid Insights by Altan Insights: August 4, 2021
In February 2017, Ponsot shocked the wine world when he announced he was leaving his family estate to start his own label. The original Domaine Ponsot released its first vintage in 1934 and has grown into a stable within the Burgundy wine scene. Ponsot’s reign as a star on the global wine scene stretches beyond his talents as a producer though. The world-renowned winemaker also played an intricate role in lifting the veil on the world’s largest wine fraud scheme to date.
Ponsot was the star of the 2016 film Sour Grapes, a crime documentary that highlighted the fraudulent activity of Rudy Kurniawan. Kurniawan sold bottles of fake wines through the auction company Acker Merrall & Condit. On April 25, 2008, Ponsot walked into the Manhattan restaurant Cru midway through the auction to announce that he had identified 22 fake lots of red Burgundy. The wines were estimated to sell for a combined $603,000 and were pulled from the event. This auction shutdown would turn into an investigation that was marshaled by the FBI, who ultimately traced the counterfeit bottles to Kurniawan. The FBI raided Kurniawan’s house in 2012, uncovering a mountain of evidence that included bottles of inexpensive Napa wines dressed in top-tier French labels and corks.
Kurniawan became the first person found guilty of wine fraud in the United States and was sentenced to 10 years in federal prison. Upon release, Kurniawan was deported to his native Indonesia in 2013.
When Ponsot isn’t busy uncovering fraudulent wine activity, he’s developing some of the world’s finest Burgundy’s. Ponsot’s rookie vintage features a range of reds and whites pulled from prominent Grand Cru vineyards including Chambertin and Montrachet. Montrachet is considered one of the premier regions in the world for Chardonnay grapes, with its combination of pebbled soil and clay which help develop complex wines. Pinot Noir is the most commonly planted fruit in Chambertin but the subregion, which is located in the heart of Burgundy, offers winemakers the flexibility to utilize a diverse collection of grape varieties.
Ponsot has also established himself as a master of the region and the grapes that encompass it. His decision to leave the family Domaine creates a unique opportunity for consumers, collectors, and investors alike.
Ponsots’ new label is not shy about its plans to harness technology and use it to improve the quality and security of production. While traditional winemakers might be hesitant to break away from the status quo, Ponsot has embraced technological advancements and is featuring many of them in his rookie release. One example of this is through his new and improved stoppers which cap each bottle that leaves his moderinzed Domaine. The stoppers are made with thermoplastic elastomers which is a rubber-like material that provides a versatile plastic perfect for sealing. The material is the same that is used in artificial hearts due to its strength and durability. The stopper will replace the traditional cork in Ponsot wines and provides a double-edged sword of benefits that include the elimination of premature oxidation, corkage, and a more consistent seal to ensure long-term aging.
Ponsot is also embracing the digital era in his rookie vintage with near-field communication chips (NFC) that are integrated into the capsule of each bottle. The chips are tamper-proof and scannable by smartphone to provide collectors and investors with peace of mind when purchasing a bottle of Ponsot vino.
The Grand Crus cases are also equipped with temperature sensors that record every three hours for fifteen years. The data collected by the sensors can also be accessed by smartphone and allows the buyer to track historic temperatures for the case to ensure the wine was not exposed to extreme conditions that might degrade the liquid.
Vint will be launching the Ponsot Collection as their fifth offering. The collection includes 54 bottles in total at a $46,000 market cap for an average cost per bottle of $851.85. The collection is the first Reg-A offering of any collection from Ponsot and features a portfolio of wines from his first vintage. At its current price, this offering also provides an arbitrage opportunity when compared to the most recent market value data found at Liv-Ex. The current combined market value of these wines at Liv-Ex is $52,075, which is a $6,075 premium to the Vint valuation and a 13% difference in price.
Ponsot wines also carry a potential catalyst as the acclaimed winemaker is expected to release a tell-all book that discusses his career in the industry and his role in uncovering the Kurniawan fraud. With the wines in the collection all bottled between 2015-2017, the offering also carries the potential for long-term appreciation, with drinking windows that span into 2050.
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