I grew up in my family’s winery in Franciacorta, a region deeply vocated for the production of sparkling wine, so I can say, with a certain amount of security, that Champenois Method is a pretty serious thing to me. I always looked at that northern France Region, not that far from Paris, surrounding the beautiful cities of Reims and Epernay as my lighthouse in the night. During my last trip to this magical region of Champagne, I had the pleasure to visit one of its most famous and characterising wineries: Philipponnat.
This Maison is located in the wonderful village of Mareuil-sur-Ay, just south of the Mountains of Reims, on the Canal latéral à la Marne, and is governed by the homonym family which cultivates lands at Ay since five hundred years ago, during the times of Apvril “Le Philipponnat”, who owned some vines between Ay and the village of Dizy.
Today it’s the sixteenth generation, in the person of Charles Philipponnat, which presides over the House.
This Maison cultivates 17 hectares of property vineyards, situated around Ay, Mareuil-sur-Ay and Avenay, which are all classified Grand Cru and Premier Cru. With the grapes of these vines and those given by the recultant, Philipponnat produces more or less six-hundred thousand bottles per year.
All the wines, with the exceptions of vintage ones, are a blend between a certain year wine and reserve wine, which are kept in wooden barrels and always refilled with other vintages, according to Perpetuelle Method.
Every wine is aged on the lees for at least 3 years and there is a significant presence of Pinot Noir (at least 1/3 of the production) which gives roundness and structure to the winery’s product. As for vintage wines, there is no fixed date of ageing, but it can vary from 5 to 10 years, depending on the characteristics they want to convey in the wine.
After visiting the beautiful ageing quarries, we went to the tasting room where we had the opportunity to taste the product lines of the cellar, excluding the vintages.
“Royal Reserve Non Dosè”: [ 65% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay, 5% Pinot Meunier], this product, made up of 70% vintage 2014 wines and the rest from reserve wines, combines a nice aggressive bubble, typical of zero dosages, with a pleasant mineral and savoury note. Aromas of toasted hazelnuts and white flowers make it lively and versatile.
“Royal Reserve Rosè”: [75% Pinot Noir, vinified in red, 25% Chardonnay, 5% Pinot Meunier], a wine that surprised me with its outstanding balance between freshness and elegance.
“Royal Reserve Brut”: [65% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay, 5% Pinot Meunier], same grapes of the Non Dosè, it differs from the latter for a more creamy and delicate bubble, without giving up an interesting structure and verticality.
“Grand Blanc 2008” [100% Chardonnay], this wine is a blend of Premier Cru and Gran Cru, which I totally fell in love with. It is an extra brut that presents, at the nose, interesting eucalyptus and medical herbs notes which are quite surprising for a 2008 wine, followed by notes of patisserie and bread. The mouth is rich of contrasts as well: it is full, but sharp, nervous but rich and generous in notes of dried fruits, honey and, again, notes of eucalyptus.
Philipponnat Guided visit and tasting €50 The visit must be booked beforehand and selected by the Maison.
by Aldo Rabotti, UNISG Master in Wine Culture and Communication student, from Brescia.
I had seen this funny looking building many times, during my afternoon walks from La Morra down to Barolo, and always wondered what type of winery it was. I recently had the chance of visiting it as part of the "Vinum in Cantina" collateral activity to VINUM.
Two things immediately changed my perception of the place. Firstly, that it was actually gigantic. The two 'boxes' above ground are just ¼ of the actual winery, it all develops underground in a series of huge spaces, used for the vinification process, the ageing, storing, bottling and labelling. Secondly, that it was modern and very chic, it embraces its "newness", throughout the whole winery you find many different design objects. The space in which the grapes are pressed, and have their first fermentation is painted with red, brown and orange colours, representing autumn, the time when these processes take place.
During the tasting part of our visit we sampled three different wines produced by L"Astemia Pentita. The first was a Langhe Nascetta DOC, a white wine produced with a grape variety indigenous to Piedmont. The second one was a Barbera d'Alba DOC, produced just up the hill from the cellar, in the nearby town of Monforte, which had a marvellous perfume of red fruits and spices. The third and final wine was the winery's most prestigious one, the Barolo Cannubi DOC, which is aged for 36 months in wooden barrels, which make it a beautifully round and balanced wine.
It is difficult to describe the feeling you have when standing in the middle of Contratto's historic "Cathedral" UNESCO world-heritage wine cellar, beneath the hill of Canelli.
The tour takes you through all the different processes of producing metodo classico, you are shown bottles in all the different stages of fermentation, and if you're lucky you get to assist the enologist, Mauro Ferraro, manually doing the remuage of each individual bottle (they produce 200.000 per year).
The visit is completed with a tasting paired with local cheeses, cured meats and breads. The first spumante we tasted was a 2012 "millesimato" Brut which was a mix of Pinot Noir and chardonnay. The bottle had spent 60 months in the second fermentation phase and therefore had an extremely elegant bubble. The second was a pas dosè (no liquer d'expedition is added before corking the bottle) "millesimato" with Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes. And the third and final bottle we tasted was a Cuvée from 2009 with Chardonnay grapes spent 7 months in French oak barriques.
Contratto winery is a must see, it narrates a part of the Piedmontese wine heritage.
I had the pleasure of visiting Casalone with my class mates from the Food Master of the University of Gastronomic Sciences in Pollenzo. Due to the nature of our visit we had a very in-depth discussion, focused on marketing. If we had visited the producer individually we would have had a very different experience - nonetheless very special.
Casalone mainly produces Barbera, Grignolino and Malvasia, they're especially known for the latter.
What makes the visit unique is the position of the cellar, which is in the middle of the quaint little town of Lu. It is more common to find wineries in the middle of nowhere rather than inside towns, but this aspect makes Casalone even more unique.
Casalone - Azienda Vinicola Winery visit and tasting: €10, winery visit, tasting with cheese pairing €25.