"Don't be too serious when drinking Champagne!"
- Benoît Gouez, Chief Winemaker, Moët & Chandon
Being the chief winemaker of one of the world's most celebrated Champagne houses is no easy task but Benoît Gouez brings tremendous talent and energy to his important role as Chef de Cave at Moët & Chandon -- a position he has held since 2005. Founded in 1743, Moët & Chandon is one of the most recognized luxury brands in the world but the company doesn't rest on their laurels. Each bottle of bubbly must consistently reflect superior quality and sophistication.
"NV is consistency,"said Benoît. Moët & Chandon Impérial Brut NV (non vintage, $39.99) is a superb example of the house style. Created in 1869, it is the House's iconic Champagne and year after year it delights drinkers with its fine bubbles, vibrancy, and elegance. This level of consistency is challenging but Benoît meets it with aplomb. Impérial Brut is a classic blend of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay and tastes like the very fine grapes from which it is made. It is undeniably Moët & Chandon. In fact, Impérial is always blended from the three classic Champagne grapes because they are viewed as a legacy that reflects complete balance and harmony. Aged 24 months in the cellars, Impérial is a wine with energy and texture -- rich and crisp with lively citrus, pear, peach, and apple flavors that are bolstered by hints of brioche and minerality. Benoît encourages us to "celebrate everyday and don't just keep Champagne for rare and special occasions." Of course, Champagne pairs beautifully with luxury foods like caviar and oysters but Benoît advises not to be afraid to pair bubbly with simple foods like french fries and fried chicken. Champagne and fried salty foods are a decadently delicious combination.
While non vintage Moët & Chandon is a consistently elegant option, a vintage bubbly allows the winemaker to showcase the unique qualities of an exceptional year. The highly anticipated 2008 vintage is Benoît's creative interpretation of that year's harvest. Moët & Chandon 2008 Grand Vintage Brut ($64.99) skillfully balances freshness with rich complexity. A blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier, the 2008 vintage was aged 7 years in the cellar and has layers of flavor - citrus, brioche, white pepper, vanilla, white peach, and almonds. Lively acidity and crunchy minerality add a sinewy structure to this impressive vintage.
One of Champagne's many charms is that it ages magnificently. And perhaps that quality transfers to the drinker - when I told Benoît that he looked quite young he laughed and replied, "I'm older than I look. Champagne preserves." I had the opportunity to taste the 1998 and 1988 vintages with Benoît and was impressed at the nuances that the Champagnes revealed over time. The vibrancy and acidity remained intact but hints of smokiness and spice had elegantly emerged. Definitely try older Moët & Chandon vintages if you see them on wine lists - you won't be disappointed. And why not buy a few bottles of the 2008 - some to enjoy now and a bottle or two to rediscover a few years from now? You can never have too much Moët & Chandon!