Unveiling the Latest Philipponnat Releases: Expressions of Time and Place

By | 27 February 2024

A trio of wines from the legendary Clos des Goisses.

By Essi Avellan MW

The three most recent offerings from Philipponnat’s famed Clos des Goisses monopole show very different sides of a special vineyard, says Essi Avellan MW.

For a keenly awaited first sample of Champagne Philipponnat’s upcoming releases, we gathered for a tasting and omakase dinner at chef Yasuhiro Ochiai’s Maru in London’s Mayfair. Every year, Philipponnat disgorges the different Clos des Goisses cuvées in March and previews them in September before releasing in January the following year. This time, we were in for a discovery of Clos des Goisses 2014, Les Cintres 2012, and Clos des Goisses LV 1998.

Clos des Goisses is a ground-breaking single-vineyard Champagne that, as per its modern philosophy, is currently produced every season. Only 12 vintages have been missed since the creation of this cuvée by Philipponnat in 1935, and Charles Philipponnat ensured continuity of production since taking over the reins in 2000. The vineyard, perched on a steep slope overlooking the Marne canal in Mareuil-sur-Aÿ, currently spans 5.83ha (14.4 acres), with a two-thirds planting of Pinot Noir and a one-third of Chardonnay. The south-facing site, basking under the sun and on pure chalk grounds, ensures the success of Clos des Goisses even during the most testing vintages. Nevertheless, an equally significant factor is the rigorous selection and wide-ranging blending made possible by its vast expanse.

Charles Philipponnat states, “We exclude anything that is not perfect from the Clos des Goisses blend. Moreover, the crop from the younger vines is not included, nor are the inferior taille parts of the pressings.” Indeed, despite its single-site nature, Clos des Goisses is a distinctly blended wine. This exclusive Philipponnat vineyard comprises no less than 16 plots, planted at various times, with the eldest vines dating back to 1964. Different grape varieties, clones, rootstocks, and vine age batches are meticulously blended together and fermented in small barrels, offering a plethora of blending alternatives. Consequently, even though the theoretical potential is much higher, contemporary average production per season ranges between 15,000 and 25,000 bottles.

Philipponnat summarizes the nature of the 2014 vintage bottling as follows, “The high-yielding 2014 was the second cool vintage in succession. However, unlike the dense 2013, the 2014 is less concentrated. It does not possess the typical weight of Clos des Goisses. In contrast, it is a fresh and floral vintage that, aromatically, reminds me of the 2004.”

Since 2006, Philipponnat has been packaging the central Cintres part of Clos des Goisses as a distinct cuvée in select vintages. It consists of blends from both the 0.27ha Petits Cintres and 0.31ha Grands Cintres which together form the heart of Clos des Goisses. They are on the steepest part of the slope on pure chalk with very shallow topsoil. Philipponnat informs us, “We only separate it when the crafting of the main Clos des Goisses cuvée permits it. Also, we never use more than one third of the grapes for it because we don’t want Les Cintres to impoverish Clos des Goisses.”

Production volumes are indeed tiny, with approximately 2,000 bottles per vintage. The monumental 2012 is only the fifth vintage made, following the 2006, 2008, 2009 and 2010. Due to its huge concentration and strikingly mineral nature, Charles Philipponnat anticipates even greater aging potential for Les Cintres compared to Clos des Goisses. Its structure is furthermore enhanced by its elévage in oak.

Les Cintres has made the wines of Clos des Goisses even more sought after among its dedicated clientele of wine enthusiasts. Philipponnat’s LV (Long Vieillissement) range offers additional delights for this lucky niche. This range includes long-lees-aged iterations of Clos des Goisses that are released to the market, freshly disgorged, around 25 years after harvest. He neatly summarises the purpose of recently disgorged Champagnes, saying “With different disgorgements of the same wine, we sort of provide a photo of the same person at different ages. You can recognize the person but see the effects of time in a different way.”

The range of my scores reflects the current state and future potential of the wine.

Philipponnat Clos des Goisses 2014

The varietal mix of this vintage is composed of 71% Pinot Noir and 29% Chardonnay which is a reflection of the planting proportions on the site. An initial sniff reveals a nuanced oaky tone overlaying fruit that carries a floral scent. The fruit is spiced and layered with ripe peach, dried apricots, and apples. The cool-harvest year did not deter the ripening of the flavors which are however slightly more delicate than is typical for Clos des Goisses. The palate is presented with an oily texture yet notable freshness and vibrancy giving rise to a feeling of lightness and airiness. The hallmark dosage of Clos des Goisses at 4.25g/l strikes a good balance with the fruitiness and high acidity level from blocked malolactic fermentation resulting in a joyfully vibrant Clos des Goisses. This wine can be enjoyed presently but also has potential to age and evolve for the next 20 years and beyond. 94–96+

Philipponnat Les Cintres 2012

Unlike Clos des Goisses which is partially fermented in oak, Les Cintres is fully matured in barrels. The wine handles the oak wonderfully displaying integrated aromas and woody tannins at the finish. The aromas are laden with spices, abounding in red apple, mature orchard fruit, and sweet strawberry tones. As it sits in the glass, a lush honey note is unveiled. The palate is muscle-bound and structured, accompanied by a tannic hint along the spicy-mineral finish. The soft mousse complements the syrupy, luxurious palate enriched with concentration and potency. The wine is presently very youthful and replete with fruit and the acid structure from blocked malolactic fermentation augments the wine’s endurance. The best cuvée of Les Cintres released thus far. 96–98

Philipponnat Clos des Goisses LV 1998

The bottle, which was disgorged in March 2023, originates from a period before the implementation of temperature-controlled vinifications, and when old barrels were still utilized. The earthy spice of old wood and oxidative notions are the first noticeable sensory experiences on the expressive nose, followed by tones of wheat, apricot jam, and dried apple. There is a gamey profile, with aldehydic overtones taking precedence over mature fruitiness. The palate illustrates a winey profile with a concentration that concludes on a note of nuttiness. The aging has not been entirely beneficial, but it presents as fresher than the initial Clos des Goisses disgorgement of equivalent vintage. 91 – 91+

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