Thursday, May 9, 2013

Basking in Moët's Champagne Portfolio

Moët Hennessy is a beverage industry behemoth. Besides the luxury brands in its name (Moët & Chandon Champagne, Hennessy Cognac) the company’s brands include the Champagnes of Veuve Clicquot, Ruinart, Dom Pérignon and Krug. Not to mention Grand Marnier, Ardbeg and Glenmorangie Scotch, and a handful of wineries in Spain and Argentina.

So I was obviously excited when I got invited to a Moët Hennessy USA tasting at the Graham Georgetown Hotel in Washington, DC. The tasting was led by Seth Box, Moët Hennessy USA’s director of education, and a Master of Wine student. Mr. Box’s knowledge of Champagne is extensive, and his passion for wine is addictive. A few dozen people from the DC-area wine community gathered in the cozy bar on the hotel’s ground level as Mr. Box and other Moët reps poured glass after glass of incredible (and justifiably expensive) Champagne. We talked about the masters behind the winemaking, the process of aging Champagne, and why any serious wine collector should consider stashing away some of these beautiful bubbles.

As readers of this blog may know, I taste a lot of wine. However, its a rare event where I consistently freak out over the quality and distinctiveness of this many wines. Here are my notes on a palate-pleasing night.

2004 Moët & Chandon Champagne Grand Vintage Brut - France, Champagne
Floral on the nose, with lots of mixed nuts, lemon cake and yellow apple. Crisp acid, full body, flavors of nougat, lemon, yellow apple. Long finish with notes of honeyed tea. Nice way to start of the evening. A blend of 38% Chardonnay, 33% Pinot Noir and 29% Pinot Meunier. (89 points)

1992 Moët & Chandon Champagne Grand Vintage Brut - France, Champagne
Showing those beautiful aged aromas of hazelnut, boiled peanuts, apricots and yellow flowers. Crisp acid, fine bubbles, this mineral-driven Champagne also shows lots of lemon peel, honeydew melon, sweet tart candies and honeycomb flavors. Very elegant and sleek, with a long, nutty finish. Drinking incredibly well now, but these bubbles arent done evolving yet. (91 points)

2002 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon Rosé - France, Champagne
Salmon-pink color. Aromatic bliss: watermelon, juicy strawberries, white cherry, potpourri. The aromas shift and change with every sniff. Intensely young on the palate, with sharp acid. Juicy watermelon and strawberry fruit is accentuated by notes of biscuit, tons of minerals and a flavor that reminds me of sage. This is a stunning rose Champagne, but I got a sense that this has much more to show as it opens up over the next five or ten years. (94 points)
1996 Moët & Chandon Champagne Cuvée Dom Pérignon Oenothèque
- France, Champagne
Intoxicating aromas of lemon cake, buttered croissant, yellow apple, honeydew, dried white flowers... and the aromas just keep going. Rich on the palate, with green apple and melon fruit, buttered toast and dried honey, but this wine maintains so much focus and precision. The minerality in this wine is astounding, same goes for the acid, which never ceases. Such dramatic tension between the lean and rich aspects. Chef de Caves Richard Geoffroy has made a masterpiece with this wine. If I had a bottle of this, I’d put it down with a cellar tag that reads “Do not open until apocalypse.” (96 points)

2000 Krug Champagne Brut - France, Champagne
Years of studying wine, tasting wine, collecting and storing it, sometimes you forget what it is about wine that drives a person to dedicate so much time, money and effort. Then a wine like this comes along and floors you, leaves you in complete awe, and reminds you that life is fucking awesome. This Krug shows a beautiful golden apple color. A collage of rich and intense aromas: fresh biscuits, apricot, hazelnut, honey, caramel, shortbread cookies, the aromas dont quit. Dense and bold on the palate, but balanced by superb acid. Rich themes of apricot, hazelnut, honeycomb, caramel, Fuji apple, but theyre contrasted with intense limestone and quinine flavors. Full and hedonistic, yet sleek and elegant, this Champagne is a beautiful contradiction. 43% Chardonnay, 42% Pinot Noir, 15% Pinot Meunier. Id love to taste another bottle of this again when Im old and crotchety. (98 points)

N.V. Krug Champagne Brut Rosé - France, Champagne
Pretty copper-rose color. Aromas of white cherries, McIntosh apples and lots of seashell, saline and ocean jetty rock aromas. Brisk acid, this wine is both powerful and effortlessly beautiful. The palate is full of juicy watermelon, apple and strawberry, highlighted by peanut shell, sea salt and lemon zest. A stunning rosé Champagne. Go Krug!

(95 points)

1989 Krug Champagne Brut Collection - France, Champagne
One of those wines you taste and think, “Man, I am so lucky.” Intriguing apricot-honey color. Smells waxy and honeyed, with orange marmalade, clover honey, dried flowers, bruised apples. The palate loaded with gobs of apricot, brandied pear and blood orange. Crisp acid keeps it lean and balanced, and the aged notes of mixed nuts, rose tea, truffle oil and dried mushrooms. Throughout, this wine maintains an oceanic aura, with seashells and mineral water. So complex, this wines finish is obscenely long. One of the most intellectually stimulating Champagnes Ive ever had the pleasure of drinking.

(97 points)


Moët Hennessy has its fingers in a lot of pies, including wineries in Spain and Argentina that make delicious, boisterous reds.

2007 Terrazas de Los Andes Cheval des Andes - Argentina, Mendoza, Lujan de Cuyo, Vistalba
A joint venture between Chateau Cheval Blanc and Terrazas De Los Andes, this is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Malbec, 4% Merlot and 1% Petit Verdot, aged 18 months in oak. Seductive aromas of plum sauce, black currant jam, sage, pepper and earth. Full and packed with saucy red and black fruit flavors. I like the earth, graphite and loam aspects of this wine. With such purity of flavors, this wine is beautiful now, but I dont doubt this wines ability to age well for five years. (90 points)

2009 Terrazas de Los Andes Malbec Single Vineyard Las Compuertas - Argentina, Mendoza, Lujan de Cuyo
Nose shows figs, blackberries, brown sugar and charcoal. The palate is smooth and silky, with pure blueberry and blackberry fruit. Notes of tilled soil and smoke help out the complexity. Very easy-drinking kind of malbec that would please almost any palate. (88 points)

2008 Bodega Numanthia Termes Toro Numanthia - Spain, Castilla y León, Toro
Smells like magic markers, blackberry jam, plum sauce and a hint of eucalyptus. Bold and brutish on the palate, this wine has a tannic, chewy mouthfeel. Flavors of blueberry and fig and compacted with smoke, earth and a hint of bay leaf. Unapologetic and delicious. (90 points)

2009 Bodega Numanthia Termes Toro Termanthia - Spain, Castilla y León, Toro
Love the aromatic display of fig, blueberry reduction, smoke and violets. Dense tannins lay the groundwork for the copious amounts of fruit: blueberry extract, fig, black currants. These smoke and herbal aspects add complexity and depth. Gorgeous finish. A bold wine, but it maintains some nuance and will surely develop more over time. (91 points)

At the beginning of the night, a bottle of 1997 Chateau d’Yquem rested majestically among the Champagnes. Everyone was under the impression that we would open this Sauternes at the end of the evening for a final toast. However, by the end of the night, the bottle had mysteriously disappeared. None of the tasters knew what happened to it. My guess is that the organizers realized we’d had quite a lot to drink and sneakily shelved the bottle for another occasion. Disappearing d’Yquem bottle aside, the tasting was as good as they get.


Smiles all around from the crew at the daily wine blog Terroirist. Left to right:
Isaac James Baker, David White (founder and editor), Scott Claffee, Sarah Hexter.


  1. Wow, that was super fast but then again it really was an incredible night of Champagne.

  2. So good, that's the tasting of a the year! Great descriptions. Now all I need to do is sell my car and I might be able to replicate it.

  3. Matthias, I was lucky to taste these wines for free, but, yes, putting on such a tasting by purchasing the bottles would be impossible for me and most people. That said, the leading wines in the tasting prove that, sometimes, bottles that cost hundreds of dollars can be worth every penny. Cheers!