A vinegrower’s vision - Champagne Philipponnat

A vinegrower’s vision

Meet Pierre-Louis Martin,

Vineyard and Supply Manager

You joined Philipponnat a few months ago. What was it that motivated you to make this decision?

My affinity with the House, and above all with Charles Philipponnat. We share a common vision of agriculture. We both aspire to the very best expression of the Champagne region, by conveying this through the wines, in a quality-led, environmentally friendly context.

Ever since the beginning of my career, I have sought to champion the notion of vintage in wines and respect for the terroir. And Philipponnat also sets great store by these two notions. You only have to consider the precedence given to the base vintage in blends and the extensive array of vintage cuvées, from Clos des Goisses to single-plot cuvées, for example.

The Philipponnat vineyards are tended using integrated, virtuous methods that care for the environment. That philosophy is reflected in the cultivation practices in terms of the soil, cover crops and green fertilisers. This is what made me realise that joining the House was the right choice for me: to share in a common vision there, which benefits the land and the vinegrowers’ work.


How do you plan to continue developing the Philipponnat vineyard and enable it to progress?

Together with the teams, we want to keep making relevant decisions about the environment… and to act on them.  We are embracing virtuous agricultural practices: increasing our use of horse-drawn ploughs, using natural substances, using plants to tend the vines and applying environmental specifications. We use biological pest control products, herbal teas, in line with the principles of biodynamics. We are thinking about all the best natural solutions for the continuous improvement of our vineyard.

We also want to go further technically speaking too, not least as regards protection of the vineyard. Mass selection is also part of our goals: selecting the very best vine plants in our plots to create our own selection of vines, which is better suited to our terroirs and more in line with our quality and organoleptic expectations. We have opted for gentle pruning of our vine plants, as this enables our working tool to last longer. We work with nurseries that share the same viewpoint as us regarding renewal of the vineyard, and which only practise manual, traditional grafting techniques; this resonates with Philipponnat’s philosophy.

We mustn’t overlook the social side either. So we are continuing to train our teams to develop their skills, such that they can be more effective but above all mindful and proactive. We are developing our teams’ skills so that they can thrive at what they do. Vinegrowing is a challenging profession, so it is crucial that the women and men involved are supported day-to-day, to strengthen ties between them. We share a profession that we are passionate about, we love working out in nature, and it’s so rewarding to see that we make a difference and to see the end result over the  course of a year. I think it’s important that everyone can put this passion into practice under the best possible conditions.


What task(s) do you have to carry out in the vineyard at this time of year?

Pruning, which helps to regulate the load on the vine plants, is drawing to a close. At the same time, we are beginning to tie up the shoots to supporting wires for trellising. We are also repairing anything that needs it. As soon as spring begins, we will plant new plots, with mass selections from Burgundy. The soil must therefore be prepared from now onwards. The winter was fairly dry, with quite cold temperatures in the end. As we speak, the vines have not yet broken into bud. This is good news: it means we are following the traditional cycle of the vines, which should be protected from spring frosts.


Do you have a favourite plot?

Obviously I am intrigued by Clos des Goisses. Such a protected vineyard, with excellent exposure, tended like a garden, but with fairly steep slopes, must be cultivated carefully and with great skill. That fascinates me, and I can’t wait to see how it changes through the months and the seasons.