The advantage of champagne consists not only in the exhilarating sparkle and play of its mantling life, where the beads that airily rise ever in pursuit of those that have merrily passed; but in the magnetism it possesses above all other wines — of tempting the fair sex to drink another glass. – St. Ange
Champagne is the hardest wine to make. Between the late, northern France grape-growing season to the blending and the assemblage to the disgorgement to the dosage to the riddling, etc., it takes more steps to coax naturally-fermented drinkability into a deep-punted bottle of the stuff than all other wines combined.
But let’s face it, once all those steps come together, it is the easiest wine to enjoy…and appreciate. And it’s probably contributed to more women prematurely removing their underwear than all other wines combined.
But such prosaic pursuits were not on our minds last week, and we met Moet winemaker Marc Brevot for a private tasting of his 1992 and 2002 Grand Vintage Champagnes. The Grand Vintages are so rare — Moet has only declared them in 1964, 1975, 1985, and 1992 — they make even the great vintage champagnes seem humdrum by comparison. One sip of the ‘o2 or ’92 and you see why.
The 2002 vintage came to Las Vegas without a formal label on it (meaning: it came directly from the house’s cellar), and without putting too fine a point on it, ELV can proclaim it was all that and a bag of chips.
Want a fine point on it? Well, here are my tasting notes:
51% Chard, 26% Pinot Noir, 23% Pinot Meunier; seems a bit sweet (and creamy) on the front palate but gives to flavors of toast, grain, and nutty notes, before ending with a bracingly citrusy finish. That finish, BTW, lasts from here until next Tuesday.
The ’92 was a different story altogether. A 45% Pinot Noir/40% Chard blend gave it more weight in the mouth; almost twenty years in the bottle gave it a deep, complex, almost cooked fruit quality that gave way to a pleasantly astringent finish. The bubbles dissipated rapidly over the hour or so we were indulging, but that didn’t keep us from going back to the glass again and again, to appreciate its sweet, roasted, almost crème-brûlée-like nose. BTW #2, Brevot prefers white wine glasses, rather than tall, skinny flutes, to best appreciate the aromas and textures of these vintage wines.
The question remains: Can mere mortals afford these wines? The answer is no, but Moet (pronounced MO-ete) and Chandon’s N.V. (non-vintage) Imperial Champagne (the best selling Champagne in the world) is a clean, crisp, fruity, tasty delight that gives more than a hint of what this powerhouse packs into its best blends. Best of all, all this elegance can be yours for less than $50/btl.
ELV suggests buying a few bottles today, and prepare to start removing some woman’s underwear tonight!
A votre santé!