Champagne Ponson & Paul Gadiot

Champagne, France

The Story

In 2011, Maxime Ponson returned home from a couple years abroad studying winemaking in Australia and recreational touring in China, South Korea and Japan. This followed his receiving a two-year degree in viticulture and enology from the University in Montpellier—a school known to focus more on the growing than making side of wine. He was twenty-five, and ready to learn the family métier from his father, Pascal.

Two years after returning from school he began to challenge Pascal on his farming practices. Pascal employed a more traditional farming approach, a term that makes many of us in the industry suck our teeth with irritation when it’s conveniently substituted for chemical farming. I’m not sure how anyone could believe it to be “traditional,” considering how many millennia farming was done with purely natural techniques—the true traditional farming—before the chemicals arrived in full force following World War II. Yet still this misnomer endures… Maxime urged his father to consider converting to organic culture and Pascal resisted. Maxime continued to push, and an age-old, friendly contest between father and son began.

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Lay of the Land

Maxime Ponson and his younger brother, Camille, work their family’s vineyards in La Petite Montagne, a sub-section of Champagne’s Montagne de Reims, located west of Reims, the region’s capital. La Petite Montagne is home to some regional luminaries and top talents, like Prévost, Brochet, Savart and Egly-Ouriet. Given the amount of great writing on Champagne, I will spare you with an attempt at explaining the broad details of the region and dig more into the Ponson family’s vineyards from the seven communes they work.

(For a great read on Champagne, I suggest Peter Liem’s book Champagne: The Essential Guide to the Wines, Producers, and Terroirs of the Iconic Region. Read it, and read it again, and again. And when you’ve got a good a good grip on it, take the book to Champagne and read it over a couple of days alone on the trail without any interruptions. Stop to read each section while you slowly make your way from village to village; find a solid parking spot with a good view to sit, read and then take a walk in the vineyards; and never mind the refuse that was deposited there by Parisians half a century ago—yes, that happened, but most of what is left is hard material, like glass and has likely little effect on the vineyards today except a slight alteration of the soil grain. I did this and it burned into my mind the topography of the land—the important part. The book reads with great fluidity despite its dense material and for a wine book, it’s a page-turner. Bravo, Peter!)

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