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.