Extraordinary. Simply extraordinary.
We arrived in the village of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ on our final day in Champagne, to meet with the regal Nicoletta de Nicolo, Brand Ambassador for Champagne Philipponnat. I've never tasted Clos des Goisses before, and was eager to get out to the vineyard. Nicoletta, in no uncertain terms, told us there was an unbreakable rule of the house that if you want to taste Clos des Goisses, you have to climb Clos des Goisses.
It was uncharacteristically warm and sunny in the Vallée de la Marne for early May, and the vines were developing about 2 weeks early. Look at this vineyard. It's adjacent to a canal, which offers a stabilizing influence over the sometimes adverse weather conditions of the area. Clos des Goisses is incredibly steep, which is only appreciated once you climb on top and look down - the workers nearly have to crawl to move up and down the vines. Bark is used as a mulch to prevent the topsoil from tumbling down, and in the event that a storm washes it down, workers must bucket it back up. Facing south, the vines are able to soak in sun the entire day. The parcels are clearly delineated - the top two being Petits Cintres and Grands Cintres.
Only about 20,000 bottles of this wine are made every year, with more than half of the vineyard delisted into other cuvées - certainly maintaining that only the best of the best are presented. Much like still wines, Clos des Goisses is made every year, counter to everyone else in Champagne who pick and choose their vintages. I love this approach. Today's viticulture and winemaking practices insure that bad vintages are non-existent. Producing Clos des Goisses every year gives an invaluable, true look at what this terroir can achieve.
Back in the cellars, the equipment is certainly state of the art. Oak casks are still used, with long aging given to the wines. Also made in a reductive style, malolactic fermentation is stopped, and dosage quite low. And then, we followed Nicoletta into the tasting room . . .