Deep in the subterranean labyrinth that winds beneath the Champagne region, Ivan unlocked a door and led us into a damp chalk cellar. A religious statue stood to my left, a tower of a hundred magnums of Dom Pérignon stood to my right. This room was holy in so many ways.
The “House of Moët” is a phrase that I just love to say. The words roll off my tongue so pleasantly, radiating sophistication and frivolity. A visit to the House of Moët et Chandon in Epernay is an absolute must for any champagne enthusiast.
For us, the added benefit of a private tour with the Maison Ambassador and the Master Sommelier made for the quintessential afternoon in Champagne.
We arrived in the bright lobby of the House of Moët and were greeted by the Maison Ambassador who gave us a tour of the original House of Moët. He told us a small portion of the house’s rich history.
Claude Moët, as we learned, was the first winemaker in Champagne to produce sparking wine and became one of the few winemakers accredited to serve the royal court in Versailles. From its onset, Moët became the French royalty’s brand of choice.
We then descended into Moët’s infamous chalk cellar system. Immediately the humidity rose and the air cooled to a steady 12°. Ivan explained the champagne making process which helped us understand why these 28 kilometers of cellar walls were lined with tens of thousands of bottles stacked on top of each other. This is where they sit and mature (not “age” as they call it in wine-making) for up to seven years, sometimes longer.
With each new fact, we began to realize why Moët’s reputation for quality surpasses not only the likes of Prosecco and Cava, but also so many other champagnes of the region. We learned that the vintages are riddled by hand, a process that has mostly been mechanized by other producers.
We learned that these cellars are shared with Dom Pérignon, the house’s premium label. And that Moët, even the Imperial Brut, is left to mature for twice as long as the minimum standard for the region. Needless to say, Moët doesn’t cut any corners.
Then after a tour came the absolute best part – time to taste the product. They seated us in the Imperial Salon, the very room where Napoleon Bonaparte himself tasted the stars with Jean-Rémy Moët. The Master Sommelier guided us through three tastings: The Imperial Brut with its radiant aromas. The Rose with its raspberry tasting notes.
And last, but not least – the Moët Ice Impérial. As legend goes, the Cellar Master was so horrified to learn that patrons in South America have to put ice in their champagne to keep it cool, they designed the perfect blend to be chilled with precisely three ice cubes.
Our time at the House of Moët et Chandon was simply exquisite. Each of our gracious hosts were hospitable and knowledgeable beyond expectation. Ivan had an answer to every obscure question, a knack for keeping my weaving train of thought on carefully laid tracks.
Moët et Chandon is, to me, the definition of refined yet tempered excess. Its brand is both an artifact of the past, but still very much present today, creating new memories, shaping the modern experience and evolving to meet current tastes. The Cellar Masters haven’t relaxed into the comforts of success or leaned lazily so on the reputation they spent two centuries building.
Everything here is as perfect as the day Napoleon walked these chalk cellars, as carefully prepared as the days when Moët hand delivered his champagne to King Louis XV at the court of Versailles.
A visit to the House of Moët et Chandon made me want to drink nothing else. It has replaced water in my dreams. And for the record it’s pronounced Mo-ett. Not Mo-eh.