Philipponnat in the Pink

The Champagne house of Phlipponnat is not a household name in the way of some other Grands Marques, and yet it is revered by those ‘in the know’ for its outstanding terroir around the village of Mareuil-sur-Äy in the Marne Valley. The Philipponnat family can trace over 500 years of history in this region, with records showing Apvril le Phlipponat owning vines in the area in 1522.

The house of Philipponnat itself was founded in 1910 by Auguste and Pierre Philipponnat, though a period of decline in the latter half of the 20th century culminated in its sale. Having passed through various hands, Phlipponnat is now part of the Lanson group.

But the story of the Philipponnat family and their eponymous house did not end. In 2000, 16th generation Charles Philipponnat was appointed as CEO, having given up his position with Moët et Chandon. Many commentators have remarked on how quality has been consolidated across the portfolio since his arrival.

Of particular renown is the ancient walled vineyard called Clos des Goisses. As possibly the most famous single-vineyard wine in Champagne, Clos des Goisses exemplifies the house’s detailed approach to each parcel of its 20 hectares of Premier and Grand Cru vineyards, in a region where terroir is often described in much broader brushstrokes.

Philipponnat’s wines are predominantly focused on Pinot Noir, and there is something of a Burgundian philosophy here, not only with their attention to smaller vineyard parcels, but with all pruning and picking done by hand, and ploughing by horse for example. They also use oak barrels quite extensively, with a Réserve Perpétuelle, a type of solera system. Non-vintage wines are composed of one quarter to one third of reserve wines from these barrels. Each time a blend is made, a proportion of it is retained in barrel and becomes the next increment of the solera.

I was sent two rosé wines from the portfolio to taste: the Royale Réserve non-vintage, and the 2008 vintage of the Cuvée 1552. There is a rosé in the Clos des Goisses range too.

The Wines

Philipponnat’s wines are distributed in the UK by Justerini & Brookes.

(2021) A proportion of this Pinot Noir-dominated wine (72%, Chardonnay, 26% Chardonnay, 2% Pinot Meunier) was vinified and aged in oak barrels. It is based on the 2016 vintage, but with 35% of reserve wines in the blend. The dosage is 9g/l and around 7-8% of the blend was vinified as red wine.  It has a relatively deep, bronze-pink colour and there is a definite biscuity depth to the strawberries and cream of the nose. Something just a little bit truffly adds extra interest. In the mouth the mousse is rich and cushioning, and the bite of raspberry and a little spicy nuance makes for attracive and balanced drinking. Both savoury and sippable, with good intensity into a long finish, it's a very fine and characterful rosé from Philipponnat.
(2021) From Grand Cru Pinot Noir vineyards in Äy, plus 28% Chardonnay from Mesnil-sur-Oger and Oger, this rosé spent eight years on the lees and is Extra Brut with 4.5g/l dosage. 5212 bottles were disgorged in March 2019. It's a remarkable and serious pink, the nose smoky and mineral, crammed with small, tight red berries and streaking citrus, just a little biscuit character too. There's an immediate sense of concentration, borne out on the palate, which is intense and beautifully fruited, with raspberry and redcurrant, again that smoky, stony, mineral base, some natural fruit sweetness gathered up into a sweep of acidity through to the finish.

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