Summertime Is a Great Time to Enjoy Champagne and Sparkling Wines
Champagne sales have enjoyed seven years of steady growth with the U.S. sitting in the second spot of bottles sold worldwide behind the United Kingdom. Among champagne producers, Moet & Chandon is the industry leader worldwide -- they trail Veuve Clicquot in the U.S. market.
Owned by LVDH, Moet & Chandon is celebrating the 150th anniversary of their ubiquitous and best-selling Imperial Brut this year. Imperial Brut is the upgraded successor to the retired White Star brand that was marketed in the U.S. for many years. Slightly drier, the Imperial Brut offers a moderately priced introduction to real French champagne.
Although international accords have outlawed the use of the descriptor champagne to any sparkling wines produced outside the defined Champagne region, Americans still routinely use the term to describe any sparkling wine.
We recently met with Marie-Christine Osselin, quality director for Moet & Chandon, to learn more about the venerable champagne house and to taste some of their products.
Moet & Chandon farms about 3,200 acres of estate grapes, meeting about 25 percent of its needs while contracting with 500 growers for the balance of their grape requirements. The growers supply clarified juice to Moet & Chandon to begin the wine making process.
Tasting the raw juice is the first step conducted by the Moet & Chandon’s 10 winemakers and Marie-Christine Osselin to decide the blend of pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay that ultimately create the final champagne. Moet & Chandon only uses stainless steel in the winemaking process so as to protect the “fresh fruit impression of natural grapes,” according to Ms. Osselin.
The complex nose and flavors of Moet & Chandon’s champagne originate from this fresh juice and aging on the lees to create this very attractive beverage, no wood needed.
We were very impressed with the quality of Moet & Chandon’s champagnes and following are our tasting notes.
Moet & Chandon Imperial Brut ($40-60) is the producer’s flagship champagne. It is made up of 30-40 percent each of pinot noir and pinot meunier with the balance chardonnay created from over 100 base wines of which 20-30 percent are reserve wines. Ripe apple and pear notes dominate with a distinct lees note to add complexity. Great by itself or as an accompaniment to many foods that traditionally match with white wine.
Moet & Chandon Rose Imperial Brut N/V ($50-70) is made up of mostly pinot noir (40-50 percent) with 30-40 percent pinot meunier and 10-20 percent chardonnay. The pink color comes from the addition of a bit of still red wine made from the pinot noir and pinot meunier. A slightly bolder champagne than the Imperial Brut with a distinctive note of cherries accenting the base champagne. Very appealing and a match for bolder cuisine.
Moet & Chandon just released a new vintage champagne along with a rosé version to succeed the currently available 2009 vintage. According to Osselin, the terrible 2012 growing year was afflicted with frost, hail, and too much rain. A hot dry August saved the vintage, although yielding 40 percent fewer grapes than normal.
The 2012 Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage ($80-$100) is drier than the Imperial Brut and spent 5 years on the lees and, according to Osselin, it should age and gain complexity for the same number of years as it spent on the le -- about 5-7 years. Very fresh and delicate, it is 41 percent chardonnay, 33 percent pinot noir and 26 percent pinot meunier.
The 2012 Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage Rosé ($85-$105) again is also drier than the Imperial brut rosé and exhibits a nice fruitiness with light cherry notes.
We also sampled the 2002 Moet & Chandon Grand Vintage Collection ($140 approximately). Majority chardonnay (51 percent) with 26 percent pinot noir and 23 percent pinot meunier. Just disgorged in 2017, this incredible champagne spent 15 years on its lees! Amazing complexity with an enticing mature nose with deep fruity flavors and baked apple dominating on the palate.
Summer is a great time to enjoy sparkling wine and champagne, especially if there is something to celebrate. Here are some other bubblies we recommend: