Moët & Chandon
December 12, 2013
After one year of white-knuckling it on the roads of Paris and highways of France, and subsequently mastering swearing en francais, I have sold my beloved Fiat 500. I'll admit, I made off with a pretty good selling price, but that certainly didn't mean I was going to kiss my voiture goodbye with a full tank of gas... And with that, our team headed to the Champagne region to visit one of my favourites: Moët & Chandon.
This would mark my third time to Champagne in the last 6 months: you could say that I have become an unofficial transport shuttle to the region for my visiting friends and family who claim that their lives would not be “complete” without a stop in the region. I get that. And I also adore the region. And never have I visited Champagne without also stopping to tour at Moët & Chandon. This is for a few reasons: 1) They actually offer tours (just because your favourite champagnerie is in the region, doesn’t mean you can actually go and see them!) 2) You can almost always join a tour on short notice (je suis procrastinator…) 3) Amongst the large champagne houses, their tour experience is exceptional.
After following the “Champagne Trail” (an official highway route through the champagne region) we find ourselves in front of Moët & Chandon: a “chateau-meets-warehouse” looking building situated not on a vineyard, but on Avenue de Champagne in the quaint city of Épernay. After choosing our tour option (3 options that only differ by the type of champagne you would like to sample afterwards...and the price of course) our adorable french guide explains the history of the house: a family story dating from 1743 and involving characters such as King Louis XV, Madame de Pompadour, and Napoleon.
After a short video on the house, our guide reappears wearing a chic uniform shawl. It’s time. We are about to enter into 25km of 10°C champagne caves! All at once you take in an experience of the senses: fresh 10 degree air, a subtle smell of fungus and the majestic alleyways of the champagne caves. While the guide smoothly explains the defining points of the champagne region and champagne making process (an intricate process of 2 fermentations), I find myself a few meters back inspecting...everything.
What always impresses me is that the original caves were carved with pick axes, whose tool marks can still be seen. Then there is the sheer number of fermenting bottles in the caves at one time. This sign reads as follows: first line - wine-master’s secret code, second line - location in the caves, third line - number of bottles in this group. We then wind past the section dedicated to Dom Pérignon (yes, it is in the same caves as Moët & Chandon), stopping a bit further to let the guide explain how 10 riddlers can turn up to 35,000 to 50,000 bottles daily!
After about 30 minutes of cave touring we find ourselves back up at ground level in the tasting room where champagne flutes await us. While sipping the Moët & Chandon Impérial (bright fruitiness and an elegant maturity), with a new-found appreciation for its origins, we watch as small trucks zoom by just outside the door, disappearing into the darkness of endless kilometers of caves. This is a working cave after all.
Finally en route to the gift shop, we snap a photo under the archway branded Moët & Chandon, my favourite photo spot. The tasting room expert told us that one bottle of Moët & Chandon Impérial is popped every second somewhere in the world. Now, next time it is you popping one of these bottles, whether in Sao Paulo or Tokyo, remember, it was once sitting in these majestic caves.