100% Pinot planned for Philipponnat

Philipponnat is launching a vintage blanc de noirs in place of its Réserve Millésimée blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

The new cuvée will be released at the end of next year using Pinot Noir from the 2007 vintage, and will follow the Philipponnat Reserve Millesimée 2005, which is made from 70% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay.

Charles Philipponnat, president of the house, said the decision to switch from a blend of white and black grapes to a 100% Pinot Noir for its vintage Champagne was designed to highlight Philipponnat’s expertise with the black grape, as well as improve sales of wines from a single harvest.

“The market and consumer doesn’t understand what vintage Champagne is anymore,” he told the drinks business.

“It is expected that the top cuvées are a vintage, but for just a vintage Champagne you need something more to give it a special character, such as blanc de blancs or blanc de noirs.”

He also said that the new Champagne was a natural addition for Philipponnat because the house specialises in Pinot Noir. “We are a Pinot Noir house, with vineyards in Aÿ and Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, and yet we don’t have a blanc de noirs in the range.”

Winemaking improvements were a further reason cited by Charles for launching a 100% Pinot Noir Champagne. In particular, he said that the fermentations in 228 litre barrels, or “pièces”, had brought “more stability” to the wines.

“We first used pièces in 2001 and more in 2002, before making a big jump in 2003,” he recalled, referring to the increasing proportion of wine made in barrel.

“It has worked in a way we hadn’t expected – the tannins [from the wood] prevent the wine oxidising, keeping the wine fresh, and bringing complexity.”

Charles added that the majority of the barrels were second and third-fill, but that he was also using a small proportion of new oak barrels from Seguin Moreau, although these have been made specifically to avoid imparting toasty flavours by soaking the staves in water before the wood is toasted.

While Philipponnat currently have a blanc de blancs in the range called Grand Blanc, the upcoming 100% Pinot Noir won’t be called Grand Noir.

“We didn’t feel it was suitable,” said Charles.

 

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