Are you ready to take a small trip to Champagne? A lovely day of spring, the sun was shining and I had a solid reason to be excited: I was about to visit Moët et Chandon, situated in Épernay. Moët et Chandon is one of the largest Champagne producers, which was founded 276 years ago, in 1743. It’s impressive all the history behind this brand, and how successfully it arrived to what it is today. That’s why I was thrilled to visit and see the actual place, where it all started centuries ago. So, let’s start…
Before entering to the cellars, in the entrance, the famous statue of Dom Pérignon welcomed us. (This is “the spot” where everyone is taking a photo before entering to the cellars – don’t forget to take yours!) Dom Pérignon was a Benedictine monk who had very important contributions to winemaking in Champagne, and Moët et Chandon named their vintage champagne after his name since 1921, and producing this iconic champagne only in good vintages since then.
The visit started with going down to underground caves, used as cellars, where the bottles of champagnes are kept. If you think that these cellars are just some aisles where you can see the end of it, you’re being wrong! The underground cellars of Moët et Chandon lies on 28 kilometers long!
We started to walk through the aisles, where the champagne bottles are kept “sur lattes” means on slats. When I saw so many bottles aligned so well, the first thing came into my mind was the work behind to put all the bottles one by one as this. Of course, nowadays in Champagne, with the modern technology, it’s possible to use automatic or semi-automatic robots to align them. However, the heterogeneity of the cellars, build more than 100 or even 200 years ago, rends difficult the complete automation of the alignment. So, there are still some manual work required for these historical cellars.
While we were going deeper in the cellar, we saw a note about Napoléon I of France: After signing the Treaty of Tilsit, Napoléon I of France visited these cellars with Jean-Remi Moët in July 26, 1807. The interest of Napoléon to champagne and especially to Moët et Chandon was not a secret, especially for his friendship with Jean-Remi Moët. “Moët Impérial” is the fruit of this friendship, which was started to be produced 150 years ago, to honor the name of Emperor Napoléon.
Until the advent of stainless steel materials, the fermentations were carried out wooden casks of different dimensions. Nowadays, most of the first fermentation, to produce the base wine of Champage, is performed in stainless steel tanks. However, some producers may choose to age their base wine in oak barrels to differentiate their product.
Although there are a lot of technological improvements made in the production technique of Champagne, some key points has never changed, and one of the most important one is the aging. These chalk caves used as underground cellars are the perfect environment for the aging, since the temperature is very stable all year around with the adequate humidity, and without light. (Of course, the ones that are opened for visitors are lightened during the tours.)
We walked through rows and rows of aging Moët et Chandon bottles, hoping that one of them would end up in my hand once finished their long period of aging. All non-vintage champagnes should at least spend 12 months on-lees aging, and for vintage champagnes it’s 3 years. Most of champagne houses extend this period depending on their style and characteristics of specific vintages.
After the tour in the cellar, we ended up in the tasting room to try the Moët et Chandon Grand Vintage 2008 of, both Blanc and Rosé.
The Blanc is a blend of Chardonnay (40%), Pinot Noir (37%) and Meunier (23%), while the Rosé has Pinot Noir 46% (of which 20% is red wine), with Chardonnay (32%) and Meunier (22%). Both has been aged for 7 years on lees after the second fermentation on bottle, and 6 months after the disgorgement, and added 5 g/l of dosage as the every Moët Grand Vintage since 2002.
Tasting vintage Champagnes is a great way to understand effect of the climate characteristics of the specific vintages, it’s almost possible to feel the touch of heat, precipitation and wind in each drop of champagne… For this vintage of 2008, the mouth watering acidity stood out nicely in the palate (tasting done in 2017), so it was not a surprise to learn that vintage 2008 was one of the cooler years of the last decade.
Champagne photo diary will continue…
All images © 2019 by Neslihan IVIT. All rights reserved.