To commence the third millennium and in anticipation of Mokt & Chandon's 300th anniversary, in 2043, the Champagne house has created Esprit du Sihcle, an 11-vintage blend using Brut Impirial wines from each decade of the 20th century and one of the 19th.
"Our main activity is blending," said Benoit Gouez, one of 11 enologists on the Mokt team, "so as a tribute to the century we chose one vintage per decade and one that was obliged to be in the blend." That vintage is the 1995, which comprises a third of the total blend and creates the link for all the vintages. "The idea was to rejuvenate the old wines and bring something fresh," explained Gouez.
The vintages selected for the blend are 1900, 1914, 1921, 1934, 1943, 1952, 1962, 1976, 1983, 1985 and 1995. All of the wines have been bottled except the 1995, which is still in tank. "This is something unique, never before done in Champagne," Gouez said.
Two months of trials with 25 vintages led to the final choices; rather than selecting the single top vintages, the enologists chose each vintage to contribute to a synergy of elements. "We don't want any one element to overpower the blend," stated Gouez.
Some of the reasons certain vintages were chosen were symbolic. For example, the 1900 literally had its roots in the 19th century, "a good image to begin with," according to Gouez. (However, due to its strongly maderized character, very little of the 1900 made the final cuvie.) The 1914 bears historical significance due to World War I, while the '43 represents one of the few vintages made during World War II. The Mokt team decided on the 1952 for its freshness, whereas the '62 embodied the end of an era, being the last of the base wines fermented on wood.
Once blended, the base wines underwent another fermentation--a risky proposition given the age of some components, the available nutrients for the yeast and the shock of disgorgement. "We were not sure at the outset if a third fermentation was possible," Gouez said.
The complex aromas of Esprit du Sihcle exude ginger, toast, citrus, pear, orange marmalade and a nutty element, displaying both freshness and maturity. The palate also reveals this combination of youth and age, with a long finish.
Mokt made 323 magnums, of which 30 will be available by auction around the world. (One recently sold in Singapore for approximately $30,000.) Of those, four or five will be donated to charity auctions in the United States, with the minimum bid set at $20,000. Consumers could pick up one of another 30 magnums at that price by going to the Champagne house in Epernay. At least 25 magnums are resting for Mokt's 300th anniversary, with 75 bottles set aside so the house can follow the wine's evolution over the next 40 years. The bottles for sale are packaged in a special glass presentation case, dated with all the vintages.
Gouez was clearly proud of the outcome of Mokt & Chandon's endeavor with Esprit du Sihcle, yet acknowledged that it presented a new experience. "We have no reference point," he said. "We have to forget everything we know about our Champagne."
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