Eternal Elegance: Champagne Philipponnat’s Legacy.
France’s Champagne region is one of the most intriguing wine regions of the world, a region that is built over centuries, by generations of families. One of the icons of this region is the House of Philipponnat, currently ran by Charles Philipponnat and his son François.
The House of Philipponnat is renowned for its rich history, exceptional craftsmanship, and commitment to producing some of the finest Champagne wines in the world. With a legacy that dates back to the early 16th century, the House has consistently upheld its values of tradition, quality, and innovation, creating exquisite Champagnes that reflect the terroir and the spirit of the Champagne region.
A Five-Century Legacy of Tradition
Founded in 1522 by Apvril Le Philipponnat, the Champagne House was established in the heart of the ancient village of Ay. The House’s beginnings coincide with the development of the Champagne region’s winemaking culture, and Philipponnat played a pivotal role in shaping the course of this evolution. Throughout its history, the House has navigated through various periods, adapting to changing circumstances while maintaining an unwavering commitment to quality.
Over the centuries, the Philipponnat family’s dedication to crafting exceptional Champagne was passed down through generations, preserving the House’s heritage and expertise. Each era brought its own challenges, from the tumultuous times of war to the shifts in consumer preferences. Yet, the family’s steadfast devotion to their craft allowed them to weather these storms and emerge as one of the region’s most respected Champagne producers.
Today, the House is led by the dynamic and innovative Charles Philipponnat, who represents the family’s 15th generation. Charles brings a modern perspective while maintaining a deep reverence for the House’s heritage and traditions. His leadership has been characterized by a commitment to sustainable practices and the continuous pursuit of excellence.
Charles’s son François is working alongside his father at Maison Philipponnat. François focusses on the export of the family’s portfolio. He understands the importance of innovation in the face of evolving consumer preferences and global markets. François was instrumental in expanding the reach of Philipponnat Champagnes beyond France, introducing the House’s exceptional wines to connoisseurs around the world.
Terroir and Vineyards
Central to Philipponnat’s excellence is its meticulous selection of vineyards and the distinct terroirs they represent. The House focusses mostly on Pinot Noir and its vineyards are primarily located in the prestigious villages of Ay, Mareuil-sur-Ay, and Avenay Val d’Or.
Their Grand Cru and Premier Cru vineyard sites are a testament to the House’s commitment to producing exceptional wines. The Philipponnat team meticulously tends to each vine, fostering a deep connection between the vines and their terroirs. The vines’ deep-rooted relationship with the chalk rich soil translates into grapes with remarkable depth, flavor complexity, and a sense of place.
Philipponnat’s winemaking philosophy is rooted in a deep respect for the natural qualities of the grapes and the distinct characteristics of each vineyard plot. The House values minimal intervention, allowing the grapes to express their true nature. A signature practice is the use of a high percentage of reserve wines in their blends, which imparts consistency to the House style while also contributing to the wines’ depth and complexity.
The House employs a traditional, patient approach to winemaking, nurturing the wines through slow, cool fermentations to preserve their delicate aromas and flavors. The aging process occurs in the cellars, where the Champagnes mature gracefully over time, developing nuances and layers of complexity.
Philipponnat’s dedication to traditional craftsmanship is harmoniously balanced with a willingness to embrace modern techniques that enhance quality. This blend of tradition and innovation is a hallmark of the House’s winemaking philosophy, ensuring that every bottle of Philipponnat Champagne is a testament to the excellence that spans generations.
A Selection of Excellence
Venue of choice for our encounter with Champagne Philipponnat was Restaurant de Swarte Ruijter. Together with François we enjoyed a magnificent dinner here, paired with a selection of Philipponnat’s best Champagnes. Besides being a charming and pleasant table companion François did a great job in sharing his knowledge and stories about the family and the House.
We started the evening with an aperitif, Philipponnat’s Royal Reserve Rosé Brut. An excellent glass, of which we reviewed its white counterpart earlier (to read the full review click here).
Royal Reserve Rosé Brut
75% Pinot Noir, 20% Chardonnay, 5% Pinot Meunier – Non-Vintage
A non-vintage Champagne that consists of a blend of three grape varieties, with a leading role for Philipponnat’s favorite Pinot Noir. This Champagne qualifies as an estate Champagne, with grapes sourced from vineyards in multiple holdings of the Philipponnat family.
About the Wine
The Philipponnat Royal Reserve Rosé Brut opens with a delicate bouquet that invites you to explore its complex aromas. Red berry notes, such as raspberries and strawberries, are intertwined with hints of citrus and floral undertones. This aromatic ballet captivates the senses, promising a multifaceted tasting experience that goes beyond the ordinary.
Upon the first sip, the Royal Reserve Rosé Brut reveals its refined character on the palate. The initial sensation is one of freshness and vitality, as vibrant red fruit flavors harmonize with zesty citrus undertones. As the Champagne evolves, delicate pastry notes and subtle hints of spice add depth and complexity to the composition. The mouthfeel is both generous and graceful.
The Philipponnat Royal Reserve Rosé Brut culminates in a long and satisfying finish that lingers on the palate, leaving behind a symphony of flavors that continue to enchant. Its balanced acidity and elegant structure make it a versatile Champagne that can be enjoyed on its own or paired with a wide range of culinary delights.
This Champagne speaks to the heart of Champagne craftsmanship. With its captivating aromas, refined palate, and enduring finish, it is a true celebration of the House’s dedication to creating wines that inspire and delight.
We award the Philipponnat Royal Reserve Rosé Brut with a 93-point DWA score.
Moving on to table it was time to move to two more explicit Champagnes. Their origin lies in Philipponnat’s finest terroirs and they are single plot cuvées. The first of the two was the 2014 Le Léon paired with a refreshing dish; sea bass accompanied by Guillardeau Oyster, anchovies and leak.
Le Léon 2014
100% Pinot Noir – Grand Cru, Single Plot Cuvée
Le Léon is one of a trio of single-plot cuvées. Apvril le Philipponnat owned vines at the Le Léon vineyard, between Ay and Dizy, from 1522. Along with Clos des Goisses, this plot is considered the nucleus of Philipponnat’s land. This wine is crafted exclusively from Pinot Noir grapes.
Le Léon is a tribute to the House’s founder, Leon, who established the Philipponnat Champagne legacy. This Champagne embodies the essence of Philipponnat’s dedication to craftsmanship, paying homage to its heritage while embracing contemporary expertise.
About the Wine
The visual spectacle begins with a bright gold hue and fine, creamy bubbles that form an enduring ring, a testament to the wine’s impeccable craftsmanship. As the wine dances in the glass, an aromatic journey unfolds.
On the nose, Le Léon 2014 offers an inviting bouquet of black fruits, including luscious blueberries and succulent blackberries. With a gentle swirl and aeration, the aromas evolve, revealing layers of complexity. Subtle notes of gingerbread interplay with enchanting scents of cinnamon and star anise, teasing the senses with anticipation.
The palate is a revelation of structure and opulence. The creamy attack showcases generous flavors of blackberry and redcurrant, evoking a sense of indulgence. The wine’s complexity is illuminated by an intense and wonderfully mineral finish, a signature trait of the Ay terroir. This mineral essence lingers, inviting contemplation and savoring of the nuanced layers that have been nurtured through years of aging.
With its captivating aromas, luxurious palate, and exquisite minerality, this cuvée encapsulates the very spirit of Champagne making. Each sip is a journey through time and terroir, an exploration of the artistry and passion that define Philipponnat’s legacy.
We award the 2014 vintage of this wine with a 95-point DWA score.
The second star of the evening was the 2014 vintage of the Premier Cru Mareuil-sur-Ay, paired with a beautiful creation: veal shank, lentils, horseradish and scallop. Our favorite of the evening.
100% Pinot Noir – Premier Cru, Single Plot Cuvée
Among Philipponnat’s exceptional Champagnes is the Mareuil-sur-Ay cuvée, a true embodiment of the Premier Cru terroir of Mareuil-sur-Ay. This Champagne exemplifies the House’s commitment to showcasing the distinct personality of their vineyard sources.
Mareuil-sur-Ay is renowned for its unique terroir, characterized by its chalky soils and optimal exposure to the sun. The Pinot Noir grapes that thrive in this area develop an exquisite balance between vibrant red fruit flavors and a touch of minerality. The Mareuil-sur-Ay cuvée captures this essence, offering a Champagne that reflects the beauty of its origin.
About the Wine
In the glass, the Champagne greets the eye with a luminous light gold color, a reflection of its vibrant character. The fine and dynamic bubbles that gracefully rise to the surface enhance the visual delight, setting the stage for a captivating sensory experience.
The nose of the 2014 Mareuil-sur-Ay Champagne is a fragrant symphony of red fruits, peaches, and a medley of citrus notes. As it aerates, an intricate tapestry of aromas unfurls, revealing layers of pastry, almond, and candied lemon. The aroma profile exudes sophistication, inviting the senses to explore its nuanced bouquet.
The palate offers an enchanting performance that dances between sweetness and subtlety. With a mouthfeel that is full and irresistibly greedy, the Champagne reveals a harmonious interplay between freshness and depth, showcasing the Pinot Noir’s vibrancy and the terroir’s mineral influence. The Champagne’s persistent mousse and long finish create a captivating sensory experience.
The crescendo builds as the flavors evolve, culminating in a long and spicy finish. Delicate notes of pepper and cumin add a tantalizing twist to the composition, enhancing the wine’s complexity and leaving a lasting impression on the palate.
With its dynamic character, layers of complexity, and harmonious balance, this vintage is an invitation to indulge in the finest expressions of Champagne artistry.
We award the 2014 vintage of this wine with a 95-point DWA score.
After these two special cuvees it was time to move to our main course and dessert.
Our main consisted of French Pigeon with beetroot and duck liver gravy, paired with a 2019 Mercurey Rouge 1er Cru ‘En Sazennau’ by Chateau de Chamirey. The diner’s finale was a Chocolate dessert with mango and lychee, accompanied by an alcohol free ‘Schwarze Johannisbeernektar’ by Van Nahmen.
With a legacy spanning over five centuries, Philipponnat remains dedicated to producing Champagnes of exceptional quality, elegance, and distinction. The House’s unwavering commitment to its heritage, combined with its willingness to adapt to modern advancements, ensures that Philipponnat Champagnes will continue to captivate the palates of Champagne enthusiasts around the world for generations to come.
In essence, Philipponnat stands as a testament to the timeless artistry of Champagne making, intertwining tradition, innovation, and the inherent beauty of the Champagne terroir.
We would like to thank Vinites and Philipponnat for the opportunity to taste these beautiful Champagne’s and Restaurant de Swarte Ruijter for the excellent dinner. Philipponnat Champagne is available in the Netherlands through Vinites and selected partners.