Making Bubbles - Consistency in Non-Vintage
Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial
by Daenna Van Mulligen
Posted March 21, 2012
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Sparkling wines intrigue.
This, I know.
Often people have completely no idea
how sparkling wines are made or that
there are different ways to make bubbles occur.
Sometimes it's not important to
know, as long as you enjoy
what's in your glass.
Each year in November, during
Cornucopia, a popular wine and food festival, which takes place in a magical
village called Whistler, high up on a West Coast mountain ski resort - I host a
This seminar is generally called "Bubblicious" or "Diva Dishes on
Bubbles" or something catchy like that. It's in the first seminar lineup of
the morning on the Saturday of the festival and it always sells out.
People love bubbles.
Despite the fact that I give insight on how Champagne is made (more complex) and
how Prosecco is made (less complex), folks are mostly there for the sparkling
liquid in the flutes in front of them.
Where am I going with this?
To attempt to enlighten you to the complexity of making a house-style,
Non-vintage Champagne is what most of us drink when we drink Champagne.
It's the most affordable Champagne a house will make, but oddly it's also the
most complex to make.
I knew this, but I didn't really understand, how truly intricate the process is.
Moët & Chandon winemaker Marc Brevot, arrived in Vancouver recently with a case
of wine in unmarked bottles. These bottles contained three Pinot Noirs, three
Pinot Meuniers and three Chardonnays from various grand cru, premier cru and
village designated vineyards around Champagne.
Brevot briefly explained the history of the more than 250 year-old Moët &
Chandon before pointing to a map he had brought, showing the 84,117 acres of
vineyards in the Champagne appellation.
The map highlighted the main growing locations of Champagne's three grape
varieties, (Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay) as well as the 2,844 acres
of vineyard owned by Moët & Chandon (comprised of 50% Grand Cru, 25% Premier Cru
planted with 37% Pinot Noir, 35% Chardonnay and 25% Pinot Meunier).
The non-vintage (often indicated by NV) Brut Imperial is an assemblage of more
than 200 crus, which are chosen from an initial selection of 800+ individual
wines. As a winemaker, Marc and his team must construct a wine, which remains
consistent year after year. This assemblage is made not from one vintage (hence
the non-vintage designation) but from multiple vintages and the blend varies
Brevot explained that Pinot Noir, which comprises most of the blend
lends personality, fruit and structure. Chardonnay, which is the second
largest component offers purity of fruit and acidity while Pinot Meunier
presents mellow characteristics, a supple palate and ripe yellow and white
The individual components are tasted blind, and the final assemblage is built
solely on taste.
After sampling the three Pinot Noirs, three Chardonnays and three
Pinot Meuniers I could taste and smell the difference and choose a
personal favourite (in all cases I preferred the most delicately scented and
brightest palate) in each lineup, but to build a wine from more than 200 of
Brevot also brought two reserves from 2010 and 2011, wines that will become
Brut Impérial after undergoing a second fermentation in the bottle and the
addition of a final (static) 9 grams per liter dosage to add a touch of
sweetness to these highly acidic wines.
Even these, bore little resemblance to what the finished product will taste
The Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial you can purchase and enjoy now, is
lively and fragrant with ginger biscuits, star anise, citrus and crisp white
fruits - the palate has a creamy mousse and wonderful vibrancy and length. $65
It was a great pairing with the yam tempura and sushi served at lunch but
Moët & Chandon also suggests pairing it with goat cheese, delicate fish or
Above: Moët & Chandon Brut
Impérial, Moët & Chandon Rosé Impérial $75, Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage 2002
$90+ Bento Box by Oru at Fairmont Pacific Rim Vancouver