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How Clos des Goisses guides Philipponnat’s house style

As Philipponnat releases its latest Clos des Goisses expressions, db explores the legendary vineyard and how it informs their house style.

As the first single-vineyard wine released in Champagne, Clos des Goisses has always defied expectations. Philipponat purchased the vineyard in 1935 and used the very same vintage to make their first release. For a region which, unlike nearby Burgundy, is known for blending and commerce rather than terroir, the singular wine was a step away from tradition.

However, it is not just the history that sets Clos des Goisses apart. The vineyard’s unique character has made it an iconic wine since it was first produced in 1880. Since coming into Philipponnat’s care, it has guided the house’s entire range. For export director Thomas Jorez, it has informed a house style best described as “fruity, intense and pure”.

The vineyard sits in the village of Mareuil-sur-Ay, in the Vallée de la Marne. Due to Champagne’s classification, which based overall village titles on their grapes’ market value, Clos des Goisses qualifies as a Premier Cru site. Yet its reputation surpasses that of many Grand Cru village vineyards.

At first sight, it is commanding. Tumbling towards the Marne river, the vineyard is impressively steep, at points reaching a 45° incline. It has, over the years, proved an exceptional site for allowing grapes to reach maturity. This has taught the house a valuable lesson. As Charles Philipponat, chairman and managing director of the family company, puts it: “Do not be afraid of ripeness.”

The steepness and southerly aspect mean Clos des Goisses achieves excellent sunlight interception. It makes for a consistently rich, ripe style that showcases the power and body of Pinot Noir. Meanwhile, chalky soils promote minerality and acidity.

The wine’s blend leans into this rich quality, usually sitting between 60% and 80% Pinot Noir, with Chardonnay as the remainder. In a further nod to the vineyard’s inherent character, the wines are partly fermented in oak for added richness.

Each year, the new releases of Clos des Goisses filter these qualities through the prism of a new vintage. However, the influence of the iconic vineyard has filtered through even to their entry cuvée, the Royale Réserve.

Like the premium expressions, the blend is Pinot Noir led, complemented by Chardonnay and a small percentage of Pinot Meunier. In the latest release, mirroring the proportions often seen in Clos des Goisses, it reached 69% Pinot Noir. 

One third of the wines comes from a perpetual reserve, aged in casks to complement the black grape’s riper qualities. In fact, the combination of ripe fruit and oak-aged reserves means that they can even release a Royale Réserve without dosage (a bottle which calls for homemade wild boar terrine, according to Jorez).

However, Philipponat’s star releases, released on 21 September remain their most anticipated bottles. This year, three expressions have newly hit the market, partly distributed through La Place de Bordeaux.

The Clos des Goisses 2014, continues the yearly tradition of flagship releases.  db’s Colin Hay described the new vintage as “a little like the 2013, but more fluid, even fresher and perhaps more youthful too” in his survey of the hors Bordeaux campaign. He awarded it 98 points.

2023 has also allowed them to release a new vintage of Les Cintres. Using 100% Pinot Noir sourced from two sub-plots in the centre of the Clos des Goisses, the cuvée is only made in exceptional years. As the heart of the vineyard on its steepest, chalkiest slopes, the crop of Les Cintres must stand on its own. Without the luxury of blending, it offers a pure, vintage-determined expression of terroir. The newly launched 2012 comes from a much admired vintage in which Philipponnat could achieve both richness and bright acidity.

The final element of the trio is their recently disgorged Clos des Goisses ‘L. V.’ Long Vieillissement 1998. This series, started with the 1992 vintage, acts as Philipponat’s rebuttal to those who would say Pinot Noir dominated Champagnes will not age well. Only disgorged in March this year, the limited edition is a rare chance to taste decades-aged Champagne from what Charles Philipponnat describes as a “powerful, savoury” vintage.

With harvest now over, the team are excited to work on the 2023 vintage. Though Jorez sees it as heterogenous in nature, he says the team’s meticulous sorting is bringing “immaculate and ripe pinots to the press”. Philipponnat will celebrate the centenary of its Clos des Goisses purchase in 2035. There is every chance they might raise a glass of 2023 to celebrate it.

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