Domaine Philippe Gilbert, 2022 Update

It is a well-known fact that the vignerons of Menetou-Salon have the most vivid imaginations of all France’s winemakers. Well, alright, it isn’t really a well-known fact, I just invented it, but I am sure there must be some truth in it. The evidence for this can be found underfoot, in the degraded limestone and rendzina soils of the Kimmeridgian strata which define the appellation. This band of Kimmeridgian limestone runs all the way from Sancerre, beneath Menetou-Salon, and on towards Bourges, with the highly valued Marnes de Saint-Doulchard layer higher up the slope, and older Calcaire de Buzançais lower down. It is on the former that the vineyards are planted.

Kick around the soil in the vineyards of Menetou-Salon and, if you’re lucky, you will soon uncover some of the fossilised oysters, Nanogyra virgula, which characterise the Marnes de Doulchard layer and which thus pepper these soils. The local term for these fossils is oreilles de poules, which translates as chickens’ ears. Pick it up and it looks like a fossilised oyster. It doesn’t really look like a chicken’s ear. Indeed, have you ever seen a chicken’s ear? I suspect not. And thus I rest my case; the vignerons of Menetou-Salon have the most vivid imaginations of all France’s winemakers.

Philppe Gilbert

Perhaps the most imaginative (and ambitious) of all is Philippe Gilbert (pictured above), who took an ancient and previously unknown family domaine, a collection of vineyards which can be traced back to a François Gilbert in 1768, and fashioned it into not only one of the leading names of the Menetou-Salon appellation, but of the entire Central Vineyard region. With an early shift to organic viticulture, followed in 2006 by a conversion to biodynamics, producing a number of attractive cuvées parcellaires along the way, as well as some experimental cuvées, he soon trail-blazed his way to the top. Today Philippe runs one of the top three domaines in the entire appellation, turning out wines which could wipe the floor with any number of wines from a more famous appellation just at the other end of that streak of Kimmeridgian.

I have been meeting up with Philippe Gilbert to taste his recent and forthcoming releases for many years now, but it looked as though the Covid-19 pandemic had stymied any such plans at the moment. Not so, it seems, as on the last day of November in 2021 I met Philippe in Paris, and was able to taste through his current range of offerings.

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