Philipponnat Champagne Royale Réserve
The Philipponnat family have been winegrowers and merchants in the Champagne region for sixteen generations. Their history dates back to 1522; they were suppliers to the Sun King, Louis XIV. But it wasn’t until 1910 that Auguste and Pierre Philipponnat created their Champagne house, in the village of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ. There have been several changes in ownership since. While now part of the Lanson-BCC group, it remains family-run.
Champagne Philipponnat owns 17 hectares of Grand Cru, and Premier Cru rated vineyards, mainly growing Pinot Noir. Horses plough them to avoid soil compaction. The winery and cellars overlook the River Marne and the Canal, while the vineyards are in the Marne villages of Mareuil, Avenay, Mutigny and Aÿ. Their range of Champagnes includes the legendary Clos des Goisses, a steep chalky 5.5 ha walled vineyard overlooking the river. They make one of the most desirable vintage Champagne cuvées. As is common in Champagne, grapes also come from long-term contracts from independent growers located in the Côte des Blancs, the Marne and the Montagne de Reims.
Royale Réserve NV defines the Philipponnat house style, made from 65% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay and 5% Pinot Meunier. Using only the first press juice, and a proportion ferments in wood. There is a partial secondary, (malolactic) fermentation.
Although this wine is non-vintage, there are 25 different base wines in the blend. Also, there is a high proportion (25-40%) of older reserve wine, from a “solera” of older oak casks, which is unusual in Champagne but has a long history.
All NV Champagne must spend a legal minimum of 15 months on the lees before release, but this wine gets 36 months, for more aroma and flavour development. At disgorging, a moderate dosage of 8 g/l of sugar is added, which keeps the dry Brut style. For those like a bone-dry and more “naked” style, Philipponnat also offers a Non-Dosé extra-brut version, which shows off an underlying chalky minerality.
All this care produces an architecturally structured wine of full body and rounded flavour.
In the glass, it’s limpid and golden. There’s also a persistent mousse and lively bubble streams. On the nose, there are aromas of citrus and red fruits and notes of yeasty, fresh bread and biscuit with a fleeting hint of honey, which makes it well worth pausing to enjoy before taking that first sip.
The palate is smooth yet bold; those biscuit and bread notes appear again, underpinning red fruit, apple and a hint of lime before giving way to a long finish dominated by grilled notes.
This Champagne’s muscularity is typical of Pinot Noir but offering a relaxed richness rather than any aggression. Ready to drink, there’s no doubting this non-vintage Champagne will hold for several years. The Non-Dosé will age for longer than the Brut, but drink both of these young, while fresh and lively.
While Royale Réserve Brut will make an excellent apéritif, it’s good with fish, crab, and white meats. Meanwhile, Non-Dosé will suit lovers of sashimi and sushi.
Do I have a preference between the Brut and Non-Dosé? I prefer whichever one is in my glass! Both are brilliant wines, so buy both!
There are several UK stockists, so try online at Champagne One, at £34.95
13 Rue du Pont,
Mareuil-sur-Aÿ has a wealth of Champagne Houses, so also try their near-neighbours Billecart-Salmon. Vive le Difference!