Encounter between Charles Philipponnat and Thierry Garnier, Cellar Master
You have just tasted the clear wines from last year’s harvest. What are your first impressions?
2022 will be etched in people’s memories for the heatwaves in July and August and virtual absence of rain. This required us to plan ahead by adapting our cultivation practices to limit the impact of the heat. We were rewarded with healthy grapes at harvest time, which weren’t overly ripe. Because the natural average temperature in the vat room is 11 degrees, we decided to maintain the balance of our blends by preventing malolactic fermentation: a choice that paid off. Given the impact of the heat on the plants and virtual absence of rain, we could have expected very open wines when it came to tasting the “clear wines” (natural base wines). Luckily, our wines were still quite closed, which is a good sign as they still have great potential for ageing in the cellar.
The wines from our Pinot Noir plots are very even, they are graced with lovely aromas of luscious black fruits, blackberry and cherry, and full expression of the vinosity we look for at Philipponnat. They linger beautifully on the palate, with spicy, peppery notes to finish. The Chardonnays are more diverse, with a little less mineral tautness and freshness. They reveal a pleasant nose redolent of exotic fruits (pineapple, mango) and citrus fruit, with sunnier notes.
The blending choices are easier when we are dealing with healthy, premium grapes that are not overly ripe. Some facts appear evident going forward, and that’s a good thing. The choice of the single-plot wines is self-evident. 2022 is a superb year for a winemaker, as we will be able to make a larger number of vintage cuvées… including, perhaps, on the Clos des Goisses Juste Rosé, reserved for truly outstanding years. We need to wait for the final blending test to know for sure in April but, at this point in time, the potential is definitely there!
Questions for both…
Any favourites from the tasting?
As the grapes were all at peak health and ripeness, it really is hard for me to choose. I will go for: Les Cintres, the central plot of Clos des Goisses, very clean and taut, the chalk comes through most appealingly, no doubt thanks to the dry conditions that are the hallmark of the 2022 vintage. And let’s not forget Ay, in our “Le Léon” vineyard, shot through with flint and mild spices, including ginger.
The “Rémissonne“ Mareuil-sur-Ay plot: sophisticated hints of citrus fruit, forest floor notes and exquisite vanilla undertones. On the palate, the wood brings a tannic structure which highlights the Pinot Noir fruit wonderfully. Geographically, this is a plot near Clos des Goisses, a little more West-facing, with a 25% slope, continuing on from Clos des Goisses on the village side. It has its own distinctive personality.
Any parallels with past vintages?
Paradoxically, the dry weather has bestowed a very “mineral” and slightly smoky, but in no way heavy, character on the 2022 vintage. The heat lingered right until the end of harvest time, but without being overbearing. Thanks to fairly abundant yields overall, the balances are elegant, despite quite a low acidity, offset by a light astringency. I would say that the 1982 vintage is the most similar. Yet another fabulous “2” year for the 500th anniversary of the family’s establishment in Champagne!
1990, a sunny vintage which has shown its full potential right through to today. And more recently, the 2015 and 2018 vintages: other warm years with similar aromatic characteristics… which make for a more objective comparison!
If you could compare the 2022 vintage to an animal…?
A big cat, supple and elegant, secretive, silky-soft on first approach but with a strong character and very lively in the end. A cheetah.
It would be a butterfly: starting out in its chrysalis stage before emerging to striking effect. In a few years’ time, when it leaves the cellar after ageing, it will reveal the full potential of a sunny vintage. There is this contrast between the fine and elegant notes of the nose and the full expression of the terroir on the palate. This will ultimately be a fine, light and ethereal wine.