Moët’s My Appetite for Vintage Wines

It’s one of a champagne afficionado’s recurrent experiences to hear people knocking Moët’s entry level champagne: Brut Impérial NV.  It’s not entirely fair as I’ve had some delicious bottles of it. But perhaps too often when they expect the punter to pay £30 and up a bottle, it has a slightly stretched green grass note of over-cropped or over-pressed grapes or tastes slightly tired and nutty, a teense oxidised.  This last state I put down to sheer variation in the time since release to being opened.  We hear lots of stories about champagne being opened within an hour of being bought by many.  But equally, especially perhaps for this most often given-as-a-gift champagne, as Brut Impérial must surely be, we forget that it can get stashed away, kept too long in not such a cool place and brought out in some three years time for that ‘special occasion.’  Frankly I don’t know how Moët do it – making over 25m bottles of it must be a huge challenge to keep its clean and fresh reductive style when at its best.  And it’s a wine, biggest seller though it may be of the grande marque Bruts, that has a slightly naff image.  Just ever so slightly TOWIE if you know what I mean.  I’ve seen a bathload full of it with ice at a wedding party and it wasn’t too impressive.  But you know what?  We don’t say no to a glass do we?

Every time someone moans to me about Brut Impérial, I always say: ’ Well, maybe, but have you tried the vintage wines? – They are superb.’ And on several occasions recently I’ve had the chance to taste through and savour this little list of impressive wines.  I thoroughly recommend them.  Part of the interest is that it shows Moët can make wines which really last.  Whatever worries we might have about the Brut NV being kept over two and a half years, if you can keep them still cool and dark, these beauties are quite happy to be hoarded.  These wines had all been kept by Moët in Epernay (with the possible exception of the 1993) so no excuses.  But perhaps if you have any you won’t want to give them away quite so easily.  The only basic criticism I have is that the vintage wines are only 4% of everything Moët make.  It seems a shame the world can’t get enough of the basic brew and that’s the priority for Moët, to the point that the far superior vintage wines are more or less invisible or ignored by most champagne drinkers. 

And the good news is that Moët and Chandon are soon to start putting the disgorgement date on the back label of their vintage champagnes.  Why not the Brut Impérial too? Then people might be able to decide better whether to keep it under the wardrobe for that christening if the kids have kids.

Grand Vintage 2004  Tasted 10.12 after its release in 09.12. (this an update to original article)  Compact concentration and charm with early but reined in autolytic notes.  Very well balanced and elegant, pretty dry.  Relatively soft for a lot of 2004s but attractive nonetheless.  38CH 33PN 29PM  Dosage 5g/L 
Grand Vintage 2002   51PN 26CH 23PM  4.5g/L  Released in 2009 after 7 years on the second lees.  Very fresh but with impressive creamy mousse texture.  The ’02s beginning to lose some of that brimful and bumptious power they had when first released but they are very persistent as is this.  Real finesse, a burnished sense and long and ripe with notes of nougat, brioche and putty.
Grand Vintage Rosé 2002   51PN 28CH 21 PM  The red grapes include the addition of 27% of still red wine to make the blend, a high proportion I was told because of ‘low anthcyanins’ in 2002 – the important red phenolic compounds that colour red wine red.  Pale copper, a very Pinot nose.  Terrific peel and citrus notes.  Powerful and a slightly bitter end which seems to give it gravitas.  Good.
Grand Vintage 1995   50PN 50CH  5.5g/L dosage.  A green and almond note on the nose.  Marzipan and very pleasant toasty amomas, the beginnings of real biscuit elements.  A lovely soft mousse and lots of finesse.
Grand Vintage 1993    Tasted in 05.12: An intense charry, smoulder and toast nose, then the palate is biscuit, honey and nougat.  Long and complex.  Very good.  Tasted in 10.12, a similar impression, this time perhaps even fresher.  Fresh and complex; smoke and some development under and crystal clear top notes.  Good!
Grand Vintage 1992   45PN 40CH 16PM  7.5g/L  Disgorged 2003.  Light straw colour.  A slightly gree and lily nose, not at all unpleasant.  A sort of slightly bitter oatiness to it.  Very individual and not particularly toasty yet if it will ever be.  Still very fresh.
Grand Vintage 1990  50PN 40CH 10PM  Disgorged in three tranches over 18 months from 1998.  A hot year.  A good positive nose but slightly muddy earth and fig on palates, some beginnings of oxidation.  Then notes of nuts and reral finesse from the highish Chardonnay element adding freshness.  Has held up pretty well but a slightly dulling sensation on the finnish.
Grand Vintage 1975  70PN 30CH  Disgorged 2010, so 35 years on second lees.  A first bottle was corked but the second was terrific.  Pale gold; a lemon and herb nose.  Real stately power and tight balance, still pretty fresh.  A good biscuit cut, great finesse and length.  Would have judged it a bottle ten years younger blind. 
  
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