Champagne Philipponnat is one of the true gems among Champagne houses–not the least of which is the fact that it produces one of the region’s greatest Champagnes, the historic, oldest single-vineyard Clos des Goisses.
Located in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, the winery’s main courtyard opens onto a beautiful classic façade situated just behind a gate stamped with the family coat of arms. Here lies the heart of Philipponnat – its XVIIIth Century cellars where, shielded from the world, its wines slowly mature.
Swiss Guards Captain Apvril Le Philipponnat was rewarded vineyards by the king following the Italian wars during the Renaissance period. He then married Marie d’Ambonnay and settled his family in Aÿ, now a Grand Cru classified district, and started between 1510 and 1522 a tradition that eventually led to today’s Grande Maison. Although first established in Aÿ, Champagne Philipponnat moved to Mareuil-sur-Aÿ in 1910 when the family acquired the beautiful 18th-century cellars located in the village. In 1935, the family entirely acquired the most praised vineyards of the district, the Clos des Goisses, producing the first single-vineyard ever bottled under its own name in Champagne. In the late 80s, the company joined BCC, a family-run Champagne group. Charles Philipponnat reunited with the company in 1999 and has been managing it since.
Champagne Philipponat owns 20ha of vineyards, 11 of them in Mareuil itself, including the astounding Clos des Goisses. The rest are nearby in Aÿ, Avenay and Mutigny along the south-facing scarp between Aÿ and Epernay. This land provides about one-third of grape needs, the rest being purchased to make the 450k bottle annual average production.
Champagne Philipponnat’s vineyard is cultivated following the rules of “lutte raisonnée”- minimal treatments based on precision applications. Clos des Goisses is hand or horse farmed, without chemicals; organic fertilizer is used, alongside clever pheromone emitters. The winery is certified H.V.E. (High Environmental Value – the latest official global green certification). Pinot Noir grapes are harvested in a slightly delayed time to achieve optimal maturity. Philipponnat uses only the first press juice for vinification and only moderate dosage. Barrel-fermented wines (which is not the total amount of the must) do not undergo malolactic. To maximize the character of Philipponnat’s wines, the non-vintage wines age for 3 years en tirage (following a 3-year solera aging process for the reserve wines, totaling between 25 to 50% of the final blend), while the vintage cuvées spend from 5 to 10 years on the lees.
The overall style is one of impressive precision married with an uncommon complexity from the use of old wood, long lees-aging and a high percentage of reserve wines. The predominance of ripe Pinot Noir is complemented by Chardonnay in most blends, giving great freshness and finesse. Relatively low dosage (most of the cuvées are extra-brut) is common across the entire line, as Philipponnat prefers that the fruit and terroir shine through.
Using great vision, technical skill and a perfectionist’s attention to detail, Charles has created a range of Champagnes with few peers for quality and character. This ranges from the delicious NV Royale Réserve line (Brut, Rosé, and no-dosage) which are among the finest non-vintage Champagnes on the market today; impressive vintage Blanc de Noirs and Blanc de Blancs; the acclaimed Cuvée 1522 vintage Brut and Rosé, made from the estate’s top Grand Cru vineyards; and finally the towering Clos des Goisses, one of the most famous and acclaimed wines in all of Champagne.
The Clos des Goisses, of which some 17,000 bottles are typically made, doesn’t see malolactic fermentation and is partially barrel fermented. Aged 10 years on the lees, with an extra-brut dosage, it is recommended to age for at least five years before opening for maximum enjoyment.
Finally, the cherry on top is some limited release single vineyard, single-varietal, single-vintage champagnes that are crafted from the best slopes of the properties, only in the best vintages. These tiny-production, hard to finds gems will surely fulfill the most passionate terroirists!