The house of Philipponnat’s single-vineyard Clos des Goisses bottling is unquestionably one of the great Champagnes of the world. Among those wines, though, Clos de Goisses is also probably one of the least well known. Partly that’s because there isn’t much of it—Philipponnat only makes about 20,000 bottles per vintage, a drop in the ocean (albeit a very pricey ocean) when compared to something like Dom Perignon.
At a recent Zachy’s auction tasting, I spoke with Charles Philipponnat about the vineyard’s history. “The twenties were disastrous in Champagne,” he recalled. The region was a battlefield during the first World War, phylloxera then ravaged the vines, and then the Great Depression hit. “It was so bad, people were even planting vineyards to wheat.”
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As a result, though, when his grandfather bought the Clos des Goisses vineyard in 1935, he essentially got it for a song (and bottled a 1935 vintage as well; it’s generally considered the first single-vineyard Champagne). It’s an unusual vineyard. A chalk outcropping on the banks of the Marne, it’s absurdly steep—45˚ or so—and south-facing, and unusually warm for the region.