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A New Direction for Moët & Chandon

Photo by: David Yellen

Posted: May 21, 2007 12:33pm ET

Tinkering with tradition is like trying to turn an ocean liner around. It takes a long time. However, Moët & Chandon’s new chef de cave has different ideas.

The Champagne house was founded in 1743. The firm’s White Star is the top-selling Champagne brand in the United States. This kind of tradition and success is impressive. So why tinker with it?

Enter Benoît Gouez. The 36-year-old joined the company in 1998, and from 2001 until 2005, assisted Richard Geoffroy on the Dom Pérignon team. In 2005, he became chef de cave for the Moët brands. With the blessing of management, Gouez has been rationalizing the range of cuvées and tweaking a few things here and there.

Brut Impérial NV is no longer sold in the United States. It was confused with White Star, and since the latter was preferred in blind and brand tastings, White Star became the horse of choice in that race.

Gouez also changed the White Star cuvée, adding more reserve wine to balance the dosage, which is sweeter than brut (it’s technically extra dry, although that doesn’t appear on the label). His goal is a bright, fruit-driven, elegant style.

Now, Gouez and Moët have taken a bolder step. With the release of two new vintage wines, which have a new name and label, Gouez made a stylistic shift. Rather than conform to a house style for consistency, as in the NV cuvées, or interpret the character of the vintage, he was given free rein to choose the most interesting base wines to create the new vintage cuvées, the Brut Grand Vintage 2000 and Brut Rosé Grand Vintage 2000.

“Throughout the 1980s and ’90s, the vintage [cuvée] was influenced by the Moët & Chandon style, a super Brut Impérial, if you will,” explained Gouez. “I think we were looking for consistency, but maybe we missed some options available to us.”

He also decided to extend the maturation on the lees from five to six years, looking for more mature flavors on the wine on release.

We tasted the wines non-blind a few weeks ago when Gouez visited New York. The Brut Grand Vintage 2000--a blend of 50 percent Chardonnay, 34 percent Pinot Noir and 16 percent Pinot Meunier--shows assertive aromas of toast, graphite and honey. It begins crisp and focused on the palate, expanding on the finish with mango and pineapple notes. Overall, it’s a complex, creamy Champagne.

The Brut Rosé Grand Vintage 2000--41 percent Pinot Noir, 39 percent Chardonnay and 20 percent Pinot Meunier--has 22 percent still red wine added. Rich and ripe, it offers peach and apple flavors, a rich texture and fine length. It has a long, cherry-tinged aftertaste and a touch of tannin leaving a tactile sensation.

“My vision is that the vintage [cuvée] makes an impression, whether you like it or not,” he stated. I was impressed and look forward to tasting the wines blind with others from the 2000 vintage. Look for my reviews based in upcoming issues. Rather than turn the ship around, Gouez is exploring new waters.

Anacleto Ludovic
paris france  —  May 22, 2007 10:43am ET
AHHHHHHHHHHH thanks god, it was time! Moet is, for me, the most over-rated Champagne of all time. Isn't it good that they finally changed their style to, I hope, have something more balanced and a bit diferent of what we are used for 50 years? (I am exaggerating, of course.) But I think it's good to have somebody that clearly understands the needs of such a house of Champagne. Well, maybe in 5 years I will be recommending Moet again when I have NEVER recomended it before? Thanks Bruce, and say Hi to my home place, Le Mesnil Sur Oger.Merci, Ludovic
Bruce Sanderson
New York —  May 22, 2007 11:30am ET
Ludovic¿I think you will definitely see the difference. Benoit Gouez is looking for base wines with personality and character to create his blend. The 2000 Grand Vintage should be available in France. Moet already had a release launch in Epernay.Regarding your question about Krug 1989: I haven't had that vintage recently (somehow, I always seem to taste the 1988, a personal favorite of mine) but at almost 20 years, it should be drinking well now. It should probably hold for another 10-20 years if well stored.
Anacleto Ludovic
paris france  —  May 22, 2007 1:12pm ET
Great to hear that finally they want at Moet to change this formated to go wine they used to do. Are we returning to a certain originality in the wine world? I mean, we have seen for a long time now, some kind of a diluted wine market were differences beetween several houses were thin and the wines more focused to pleased than truly revealing any character. I am a big big fan of Salon and I am happy to read that James Suckling pointed that the wine is particular. Thanks, there is still house that produces Champagne with character and soul more than investing millions on marketing and losing their originality. What happens to the true DP, when they were making oenoteque-style Champagnes? Well you know more than I do that Champagne reveals greatness only on small producers like Gimonet or Salon or Delamotte (not so small), and I am pleased to see somebody at the head of M&C trying to impulse something new. Thank you again.regards,ludovic
Ken Hornbuckle
30307 —  June 18, 2007 12:01am ET
Moet is the Coca Cola of fine wine! Grower Champagne is the future and I'm rather excited about it!
Anacleto Ludovic
paris france  —  June 19, 2007 10:54am ET
Howard Hilton
Sydney australia —  February 6, 2011 12:14am ET
The grand vintage 2002 has had some good press, largely from retailers I think, is it a wine worth getting and drinking

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