Champagne is the consummate blended wine: By combining three grape varieties from multiple vineyards over two, three or more vintages, Champagne houses have created consistent, proprietary styles. Now, Champagne giant Moët & Chandon has turned this concept on its head, releasing three single-vineyard, 100 percent-varietal wines, each representing one of the three major grapes planted in the region.
La Trilogie des Grands Crus, sold as a set for $275, consists of a Chardonnay from the Les Vignes de Saran vineyard, in the village of Chouilly; a Pinot Meunier from Les Champs de Romont, in Sillery; and a Pinot Noir from Les Sarments d'Aÿ, in the village of Aÿ. All three vineyards, which are in villages designated as grands crus for the selected varieties, are owned exclusively by Moët & Chandon.
"La Trilogie des Grands Crus is a tribute to our vineyards and a link with our commitment to the three grapes we use in all our wines," explained Georges Blanck, chef de cave for Moët. "We consider [these three vineyards] to be the most representative of each grape variety in each site, historically and qualitatively."
Les Vignes de Saran, which scored 90 points on Wine Spectator's 100-point scale, displays classic blanc de blancs flavors of brioche and hazelnut on a bright structure, ending with a toasty note. Situated on the Côtes des Blancs, the source of some of the best Chardonnay in Champagne, the vineyard became part of Moët's holdings in 1801. Its hillside location acts as a natural frost protector, while its chalk-and-clay soil provides moisture and contributes intensity to the wine.
The threat of frost, the bane of Champagne vineyards, looms constantly over Les Champs de Romont, a relatively flat parcel near Reims acquired by Moët in 1807. There, Pinot Meunier, which is late-budding and less sensitive to damage from spring frosts, takes center stage. The grape is used mainly as a component of blends, so this is a rare opportunity to experience pure Pinot Meunier, which is somewhat more textural than the Pinot Noir, with almond and pear flavors. I rated it 89 points.
Les Champs de Romont, with 20 acres of Pinot Meunier, is unique, according to Blanck, who claims that out of the roughly 11,000 acres of grand cru sites in Champagne, less than 125 acres are planted with Pinot Meunier. "We are the only ones to express Pinot Meunier as a grand cru," he said.
The Pinot Noir from Aÿ, which is considered one of the top grands crus for the variety, is the most tightly wound of the three and shows the most potential to develop over time. The Les Sarments d'Aÿ (89 points) offers intense peach and hazelnut nuances on a vivid frame. Moët has owned the south-facing vineyard since 1798.
The base wines for La Trilogie come from the exceptional 1996 harvest, and are blended with additional reserve wines. The inaugural production consists of 4,500 sets of three. Moët plans to continue the series with wines primarily from 1997, 1998, 1999 and 2000, all of which are currently aging. (Moët also uses a portion of the wines from the three vineyards in its other Champagnes.)
Champagne houses and small growers rarely focus on single-vineyard wines, with the notable exceptions of Krug's Clos du Mesnil, Philipponnat's Clos des Goisses and Drappier's Grande Sendrée. Moët's La Trilogie goes a step further in offering a glimpse into the fundamental building blocks of Champagne. Clearly, each varietal in the La Trilogie series possesses the quality and character to stand on its own, yet they also reveal why, through blending the three grapes, the whole is often greater than the sum of its parts.
Learn more about Moët & Chandon and Champagne in general: