Our New Arrival, Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 2013, shows how even at the biggest producer in Champagne, there’s room to do something a bit different. We talk to chef de cave Benoît Gouez to find out more.
There can be few brands as ubiquitous as Moët & Chandon. Almost every off-licence, supermarket or wine merchant in the world will stock it. Production is around 30 million bottles annually. To put that in perspective, that is about double the entire production of England in 2018, which was a bumper crop.
It’s ‘Moe wet’, actually
As such there’s a certain amount of snobbery around the brand. I remember this from my days working in a wine merchant. We’d recommend anything but Moët, and we’d laugh at customers who pronounced the ‘t’ sound. Well, we were wrong about the pronunciation – it’s not ‘Moe way’, it’s ‘Moe wet.’ Like a lot of Champagne houses such Bollinger, Charles Heidsieck and Krug, the Moët family were of German origin, which explains the pronunciation and the umlaut.
But were we wrong about the wine? There was a perception in the trade 15/20 years ago that Moët NV wasn’t quite as good as it could be. It was a little green and oversweet. Well, those days are well and truly over. According to Benoît Gouez, chef de cave who we spoke with on Zoom recently, Moët has raised the percentage of mature reserve wines in the non-vintage and at the same time reduced dosage, the amount of sugar added post bottle fermentation, from 13-14g per litre in 1998, to just 7g today.
Today’s Brut Imperial is a far cry from the Moët of old; it’s still lean but with racy lemony fruit and rich biscuity finish. I’d say it’s one of the best from the big brands. With the non-vintage, Gouez’s job is to maintain a consistent style, but “with vintage we start from scratch, one is rational, one is more emotional, more personal decision. We’re not looking for consistency.” The firm has only made 75 vintages in its long history.
A challenging vintage
He certainly had his work cut out with 2013. He described it as “unusually cold, one of the coldest of the last 30 years”. It was the first harvest in October since 1991 and he was worried about rot and “we had no idea what we could expect in terms of aromas.” Despite worries, they had a good size crop with, importantly, high sugar levels but also unusually high acidity. Gouez saw it as the perfect opportunity to make a “style of vintage we had from the ‘60s to the middle of the ‘80s,” before the climate warmed.
With vintage wines, “I’m looking for charisma, individuality, looking for something a bit different,” he explained, which is just what he got from the 2013. The blend was made up of 41% Chardonnay, 38% Pinot Noir and 21% Meunier. He described the resulting wine as “autumnal, energetic and chiselled. We don’t have apricot and peach, or ripe citrus. It’s all about apples with white autumnal fruit.” He went on to say that it has: “very classic balance, fine for maturity.”
It’s certainly different to the opulent 2012. Just as Gouez said, it’s lean with green apple and still very very young. Gouez described it as having a “reductive profile with no oxidative character; the ageing hasn’t really started yet.” But there’s plenty of nutty and biscuity notes on the finish and a grapefruit flavour that develops with time. It’s not a wine to throw back at parties, rather something to be sipped slowly with shellfish. Or put away for a couple of years to mature.
This Grand Vintage 2013 shows that even with a company as big as Moët et Chandon, there is room to create something a little bit individual.
Tasting note from the Chaps at Master of Malt
Nose: Strong appley notes on the nose, spiced cooked apple.
Palate: Lean with sharp green apple, lean but ripe, mouth-watering acidity. With time it fills out bringing in grapefruit.
Finish: Biscuity and long.
Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 2013 is available from Master of Malt. Click here to buy.