This guest-post comes to us from Mira Advani Honeycutt, author of California’s Central Coast, The Ultimate Winery Guide: From Santa Barbara to Paso Robles.
On a sunny spring afternoon I met up with Benoît Gouez at Shutters Hotel in Santa Monica. The Chef de Cave of the legendary champagne house, Moët & Chandon was in town to introduce, the 2002 Grand Vintage.
What determines the bottling of vintage champagne, I ask? “Feeling,” he says simply. A wine with personality makes the vintage cut. After fermentation, the flagship Imperial champagne is blended in January, explains Gouez. Then for the next six months he continues to taste different vintages and sets aside the ones that show potential to be bottled as vintage champagne. “My vintage philosophy is not to make the ideal wine, but to create a unique wine with a great story.” Each vintage has its own personality and the 2002 is in the classic style with richness and balance.
However, to make a vintage is not the priority he adds. “Our priority is Imperial, vintage is cherry on the cake, it’s only five percent of our production.”
The 2002 is creamy and velvety, punctuated with ripeness of pears and nectarines with a hint of toasted almonds. A riot of floral notes, the 2002 Rosé sparkles with berry fruits and layers of anise and rose. Then comes the classic non-vintage Imperial luscious with a creamy roundness.
The 1992 vintage is more serious, with brown flavors of cocoa and coffee and meant to be savored with food. Moët has started a program of releasing an older vintage that shares the same characteristics with the newer one. (It also gives consumer access to it’s cellar collection.) “The link between 1992 and 2002 is that they both share the creaminess, maturity and harmony,” says Gouez. “It gives a point of reference to the past.”
What makes the 2002 vintage special is that it’s the first Grand Vintage since the 1930s to be aged for seven years. Traditionally, the champagne house’s philosophy has been a five-year aging for vintage. In it’s 161-year history, the 2002 will be the 69th vintage released. Incidentally, the 2003 went through a six-year aging and released in 2009.
I had the pleasure of tasting this champagne at Moët’s gorgeous gardens in Epernay last year. The 2002, however did not meet Gouez’s expectations to be released at the time. “The wine was asking for more time,” he says with a smile.