Philippe Gilbert L’Émoustillant 2017
One of the leading vignerons of the Menetou-Salon appellation, along with Bertrand Minchin and Paul-Henry Pellé, I have been checking in on the wines of Philippe Gilbert for many years now. Philippe is committed to biodynamics, a rarity in the appellation (although both Bertrand and Paul-Henry work in an equally admirable organic manner), and his wines, vibrant Sauvignon Blancs and silky Pinot Noirs, possess an honest sense of classicism. For years these wines have been the mainstays of his portfolio, alongside a rosé of course, and on occasion the wines can be nothing short of spectacular.
Philippe is not one to rest on his laurels though, and in recent years he has been experimenting with sparkling wines, using the local varieties. The unnamed cuvée made using purely Sauvignon Blanc I tasted a year or two ago was surprisingly good (I confess I have never seen this since and I am note even sure if Philippe decided to release it commercially – I must ask him next time I see him). Even more convincing though was a sparkling cuvée made using Pinot Noir which certainly does have a name, Philippe having christened it L’Émoustillant.
This is Pinot Noir in the pétillant naturel style, the wine bottled very soon after the harvest midway through the fermentation, the ongoing yeasty activity in the bottle imbuing the wine with its pétillance, a method often referred to as the méthode ancestrale. The beautifully judged colour comes from a brief period of early skin contact, an indicator of Philippe’s skill and precision in the cellar. Many vignerons would then disgorge the wine some time later, prior to its release, but Philippe elected not to do this, which explains the persisting heavy sediment (there was, by the way, a lot more hidden behind the punt).
By the time I popped the crown cap, much of the sediment visible in the image above was back in suspension, so by the time the 2017 L’Émoustillant from Philippe Gilbert hit the glass its peachy-gold hue was lightly cloudy. The colour appears much more delicate in the glass than it does in the bottle, more vin gris than rosé. Aromatically it is a delight, the nose brimming with peach and tangerine fruit, along with threads of red berries and a smoky and chalky confidence. The palate, meanwhile, is just an explosion of joy, all peach and raspberry fruits, coated with a light vanilla cream, a finding supported by the wine’s texture which betrays the presence of some residual sugar here; it is decidedly off dry, moving into demi-sec territory in truth, although this sweetness is countered by the wine’s brilliantly electric acidity and its chalky, flinty veins of mineral. The combination of energy and cushioning charm, with a bright and smoky finish, makes this an absolute joy to drink. It is perhaps rather short, but that hardly matters; this is a great success and, hopefully, a permanent addition to Philippe’s portfolio. 94/100 (23/12/19)
Read more in: