Anyone drink a bottle of Clos de Mesnil over the holidays after our last discussion? I hope you did! Thanks to Xoel Cantero Alvarez, Brandon Ford, Dustin Chabert, Jeremy Eubanks, Jill Zimorski and Mark Shipway for breaking it down for us.
This week let's keep up the theme: Clos de Goisses
Tell us its history. Where is it located? What are the soils like? Who makes it? What is the current release? What was the first vintage? What grapes is it composed of?
The champagne house, Philipponnat, purchased this 5.5ha vineyard in 1935 and produced the first vintage that year under the name, "Vin de Goisses," which they changed to its current name in 1959. The vineyard is unique in Champagne and the name, meaning some combination of anguish, terror and awfully steep, hints at its character. On the eastern edge of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ east of Épernay and on the southern flank of the Montagne de Reims, the vineyard rises up from the right bank of the Marne at a 30-45 degree slope, separated from the canal and river by only a narrow road. The soil of walled vineyard is entirely white chalk of around 30% active lime content that results bracingly energetic acidity and mineral character untempered by malolactic conversion in the cellar. Due to its perfectly southern orientation tucked beside the village buildings that protect it from easterly winds, the steep slope basks in reflected warmth from the sun and the grapes ripen in a mesoclimate that is roughly 1.5°C warmer than the surrounding area. Originally the vineyard was planted entirely to Chardonnay, though by 1964 Pinot Noir appeared in the blend and now the vineyard is planted to roughly 70% Pinot noir and 30% chardonnay. Chardonnay is relegated to the more easterly parcels. The vineyard has been churning out uninterrupted vintages since 2004, though the current release is 2009 and 2007 for the rosé. The wine is aged almost 10 years on the lees before release and tends to reach maturity after another decade in bottle.
It's interesting to see subtle and not so subtle changes to some of these historic wines. Going from a Blanc to Blanc to eventually a majority pinot wine. The fermentation vessels have been all over the place. Neutral 228l barrels, stainless, large oak, new oak. This wine has seen all of the variations.
One thing that's been steady: the Goissesness of the vineyard has meant that it's only horse plowed since the beginning.
Is 2000 the current release for the LV bottling?
There's not much information out there about that bottling. It looks like 2000 is the current release, having spent about 16 years on the lees. It sounds like their next Long Vieillissement bottling will spend 20 years on the lees, but this is all from secondary sites and not from more official sources. Either way it's only released in top years is given all the bells and whistles.
This streep.30-45* slope makes tractors and mechanical harvesters not practical; manual labor instead is pracitsed.
In Mareuil-sur-Aÿ the family Philipponnat goes all the way back to 1522. Pierre Philipponnat founded the renowned champagne house in 1910, though it wasn't until 1935 that he acquired the 5.5-hectare vineyard, Clos des Goisses. In 1987 Champagne Philipponnat became a part of the Marie Brizard group (integrated into Bruno Paillard's Boizel Chanoine Champagne group in 1997). In 1999 Charles Philipponnat became president of Champagne Philipponnat. Charles got his passion for fine wines and gastronomy from his father René, who made wines as chef de cave at Moët and Dom Pérignon.
Beneficiary microclimates are the key to the juices’ delicious success:
• the sun reflects its heat on the surface of the Marne river.
• the thin clay-chalky surface works as a natural solar collector.
• the village buildings block the eastern winds that often carry rain.
• the roots of the vines need to brace themselves against this wind and dig deep into the chalk soil in search of water.
• the walls of the clos perform their part as heat collectors.
The combination of all of these allows the grapes to reach full maturity with grace and natural precision. These climates also lead to less chemical intervention within the vineyards.
Treats from the clos:
• L.V. ("long vieillissement") - reminiscent of Bollinger's R.D. - takes more time on the lees. Some of these vinothèque wines stayed in contact with their yeasts for over 50 years. Current release 2000
• Les Cintres is a special cuvée made of Pinot Noir harvested from the center, and finest part, of Clos des Goisses. Current release 2008.
• Le Reflet is named by shape of its bottle. This represents the silhouette you can admire from the opposite side of Clos des Goisses and le Canal Lathéral of the Marne river. This wine has an equal amount of Pinot Noir from Clos des Goisses with Chardonnay from the Côte des Blancs in the blend. If you find one please share as they’re no longer producing this wine.
•Le Léon is from the house’s historic plot, located between Ay and Dizy, that produces Pinot noir exclusively. Current release 2006. Used in the Cuvée 1522 blend.
• Clos des Goisses Millénaire is a magnum of vintage 1990. Not much else out there on this one.
• Clos des Goisses ‘Juste Rosé’. The word “Juste” refers to the color: "barely" a shade and more copper than pink.
Clos de Goisses is referred to as the "greatest vineyard site in all of Champagne" by Peter Liem. The Philipponnat house was established in 1910 when the family acquired its 18th century cellars. The first vintage of Clos de Goisses was 1935. Not only does it emphasize intensity and freshness, but it comes from a single, completely walled 5.5 ha vineyard with south-facing 45 degree slopes above the Marne river. "Gois" is local dialect referring to a "steep slope." This bottling was significant because it argued that Champagne can be made from a single site with expressive terroir as opposed to blending of vineyards as has been the tradition for centuries. This was and still is a statement wine.
Philipponnat emphasizes Pinot Noir in their cepage due to its historical significance in the region as well as to offer character, complexity, and intensity to the wines. They farm lutte raisonnee and are certified H.V.E.
Soils: pure Chalk
Who Makes It: Charles Philipponnat (took over in '99, family growing in Champagne since 1522)
Current Release/Cepage: Clos de Goisses 2009 (61% PN, 39% Chard, 19,000 bottles made, typically extra-brut dosage, malo blocked)
Clos de Goisses "Juste Rose" 2007 (55% PN, 45% Chard, 2-3k bottles made each vintage, malo blocked)