Moet & Chandon
Moët is the elephant of Champagne, its 25 million bottles sold annually being more than twice the number of its nearest competitor, Veuve Clicquot ( the two are in the same ownership in any case, both being a part of the LVMH group).
Scale, naturally, obliges Moët’s winemaking team of Dominique Foulon and Richard Geoffroy to be masters of assemblage; the company’s Brut Imperial is a true brand, and consistency is part of its appeal. As a Champagne it is pleasant and easygoing, ageing relatively swiftly towards a toasty old age. The Brut Premier Cru is barely more interesting. Without an overall improvement in the region’s viticulture, and particularly lower yields, riper fruit, and more effective fruit sorting, it is hard to see much changing. Moët does, though, have a fine 550-ha vineyard portfolio of its own, and it’s more expensive Champagnes are everything they should be thanks to this estate (which includes the old Lanson vineyards and recently appropriated Pommery vineyards).
The Brut Imperial vintage is a model of its style, ageing with grace and articulacy; the vintage Dom Perignon is very powdery and pure, though it is often released well before it has reached expressive plenitude. In contrast to the often teasing and pretentious hints given as to Dom Perignon’s vineyard origins (which include the Premier Cru Hautvillers, as well as the Grand Crus Ay, Bouzy, Cramant, and Verzenay), Moët began to tear up the sacred texts of assemblage when in 2001 it released a series of three ‘Grand Cru’ wines; Pinot Meunier from Sillery (Les Champs de Romont), Chardonnay from Chouilly ( Les Vignes de Saran), and Pinot Noir from Ay (Les Sarments d’Ay). The aim, I was told by Chef de Cave Georges Blanck, was “not to make a garage wine; it’s just the origin of the grapes that is the focus”. No markedly lower yields, then, and no use of wood; and the blending philosophy still permeates them, too, in the sense that they are multi-vintage blends. They are good Champagnes and will improve with storage time; yet whether they truly reflect terroir or are rather top-quality varietal champagnes is an intriguing question. The powdery refinement of Les Vignes de Saran and the bready, fruited roundness of Les Sarments d’Ay are both ‘typical’ of their origins in that these are the classic grape varieties from those sites; Les Champs de Romont, however, is arguably more of a varietal Pinot Meunier (vigorous and orchid-like) than an expression of terroir (the little-seen Grand Cru of Sillery, until now known chiefly through the wines of Francis Seconde). The real significance is that it is Moët that has made this break with Champagne theology. Can we expect a response from Laurent-Perrier, from Taittinger, from Veuve-Clicquot? I hope so. - Andrew Jefford -The New France