The history of Champagne Philipponnat traces back to the year 1522, when the family’s ancestor Apvril le Philipponnat started cultivating vines in the sector of Aÿ and Dizy in the Marne valley of Champagne. With his work, he laid the foundation for a wine business that was passed down from generation to generation and has developed into one of the most famous champagne houses in the world.
The business of the Philipponnat family has seen a lot of change throughout the centuries. Developing from wine growing to wine merchant and ultimately specializing in vinification, many of the original vineyards were sold over time. But luckily, a few of the original plots acquired in 1522 still belong to the house.
Proud of their noble Grand Cru and Premier Cru terroirs in the Grande Vallée de la Marne, on the south-eastern flanks of the Montagne de Reims, the champagne house owns and works with 20 hectares of vines in the villages Aÿ, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, and Avenay. Today, the champagne house is led by Charles Philipponnat, who safeguards the terroirs and the house’s savoir-faire, passed down from his ancestors.
Many efforts are devoted to the preservation of the century-old soils. With a deep respect for nature, the house applies natural methods that keep the fragile environment of their vineyards intact and thriving. These methods include hoeing by hand and plowing with horses.
Among Champagne’s plethora of wine styles, Champagne Philipponnat stands out with a range of highly gastronomical champagnes of powerful character and complex finesse. Most of their champagne blends are based on the bold Pinot Noirs of expressive terroirs such as Aÿ, Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, and Avenay.
One of the key elements of the house’s winemaking techniques is the so-called solera process. In this process, a quarter to a third of the reserve wine from previous vintages is blended with wine from the new vintage and stored in oak barrels for use in champagne blends in the future.
Adding these solera reserve wines to the cuvées creates beautifully balanced champagnes with depth and complexity, such as the Royale cuvées. As a testimony to the past, when ancestors of the Philipponnat family sold their wines to the court of Louis XIV, the three Royale champagnes Royale Réserve Brut, Royale Réserve Non Dosé, and Royale Réserve Rosé are based on Pinot Noir and contain 25% to 35% of these reserve wines. After three to four years of bottle-aging, the champagnes already show exceptionally integrated depth and finesse.
Solera wines are also used to make the range of vintage cuvées such as Blanc de Noirs, Grand Blanc, and Sublime Réserve Sec.
Cuvée 1522 is the centerpiece of Champagne Philipponnat’s champagne range, produced in two single-vintage variations: a blanc and a rosé cuvée.
Cuvée 1522 is made from a majority of Pinot Noir from Grand Cru Aÿ blended with a smaller proportion of Chardonnay from Grand Cru Verzy. Cuvée 1522 Rosé additionally receives a portion of Grand Cru Mailly Pinot Noir to its base blend, alongside red wine made from the house’s plots in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ.
Cuvée 1522 is a powerful and concentrated champagne boasting bold dried fruit, racy spice, and zesty chalky freshness. And Cuvée 1522 rosé is just as sophisticated; a well-structured, slightly tannic rosé champagne with tonic blood orange aromas and spicy notes of pink pepper that can hold up to intensely flavored dishes.
Both cuvées 1522 are partially vinified in oak casks for enhanced complexity and undergo bottle-aging for six to eight years before they are released.
The signature cuvée of the house is the legendary single-vineyard champagne Clos des Goisses, a single-vintage champagne full of bold structure and refined details: rich in warm, aromatic depth, smooth in texture, and fiercely vibrating with a tense, mineral heartbeat.
The Clos des Goisses vineyard is situated on a slope in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, on the northern banks of the Marne river, and is entirely surrounded by stone walls. A south-facing exposition along with a steep inclination of 45° that descends towards the Marne, create the optimal growing conditions for ripe, aromatic grapes.
Acquired and first produced by Charles Philipponnat’s father in 1935, Clos des Goisses is a blend of roughly 2/3 Pinot Noir – the king of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ’s vineyards – and 1/3 Chardonnay, although the proportions vary depending on the vintage.
Stretched out over 5,5 hectares on chalky bedrock, the vines bathe in sun all day long. They benefit from a particularly warm microclimate and the tempering influence of the Marne river which help them ripen significantly earlier than other vineyards in the area. The extraordinary microclimate allowed Champagne Philipponnat to produce the sought-after cuvée in most years, and only twelve complicated vintages have been skipped along the way.
Depending on the vintage, a large part of the Clos des Goisses wines undergo vinification in wooden casks to enhance the complexity. To balance the wines’ ripe and powerful nature, malolactic fermentation is stopped.
After a minimum of eight years of bottle-aging in the champagne cellars of Champagne Philipponnat – some vintages are given substantially more time before they are considered ready for release – the bottles are disgorged and a low dosage is carefully chosen in respect of the vintage expression.
The signature vineyard of the house is vinified in two distinct cuvées: Clos des Goisses and Clos des Goisses Juste Rosé. And big bottle fans may be happy to hear that Envie de Champagne even stocks multiple vintage magnums or jéroboams of this prestige cuvée.
In addition to their famous Clos des Goisses, Champagne Philipponnat released three more single-vineyard champagnes over the years. Their wines are all made from 100% Pinot Noir, showcasing the distinction of their most outstanding terroirs, and they are only bottled in special vintages. Le Léon is made from a parcel in Grand Cru village Aÿ, La Rémissonne from a plot that’s adjacent to the Clos des Goisses in Premier Cru village Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, and Les Cintres is vinified from two central plots of the Clos des Goisses, named Les Grands Cintres and Les Petits Cintres.
For a thirst-quenching insight into Champagne Philipponnat’s work and a glimpse of their impressive terroirs, we recommend watching Champagne Philipponnat’s short film.