Are you ready to take a small trip to Épernay and visit Moët et Chandon?
Moët et Chandon is one of the largest Champagne houses, which was founded two hundred seventy-six years ago, in 1743. It’s impressive all the history behind this brand, and how successfully it arrived to what it is today. What’s most thrilling is to be able to see the actual place where it all started centuries ago. So, let’s start…
Before entering the cellars, in the entrance, the famous statue of Dom Pérignon welcomes the visitors. 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 produced this iconic champagne only in good vintages since then. This is “the spot” where everyone is taking a photo before entering the cellars, so don’t forget to take yours.
The visit started by 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’ll be mistaken. The underground cellars of Moët et Chandon lie twenty-eight kilometers long.
We started to walk through the aisles, where the champagne bottles are kept sur lattes, meaning on slats. Seeing so many bottles aligned so well makes us appreciate the work behind putting all the bottles one by one like 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, built more than hundred or even two hundred years ago, makes the complete automation of alignment difficult. So, there is 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 on July 26, 1807. The interest of Napoléon to champagne and especially to Moët et Chandon is well known, especially for his friendship with Jean-Remi Moët. “Moët Impérial” is the fruit of this friendship, which was started to be produced hundred and fifty years ago, to honor the name of Emperor Napoléon.
Until the advent of stainless steel materials, the fermentations were carried out in wooden casks of different dimensions. Nowadays, most of the first fermentation, to produce the base wine of Champagne, 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 method of Champagne, some key points have never changed, and one of the most important ones is 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. Only the cellars 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 on our glasses once they finished their long period of aging. All non-vintage champagnes should spend at least twelve months on-lees aging, and for vintage champagnes it’s three years. Most champagne houses extend this period depending on their style and characteristics of specific vintages
After the tour in the cellar, we finished 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 seven years on lees after the second fermentation on bottle, and six 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 the 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… 2008 was one of the cooler years of the last decade and it’s possible to feel it in the mouth-watering acidity that stood out nicely on the palate.
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