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Exploring the Historic Cellars of Champagne's Grandes Marques Houses Part 3

'These articles are a collection of my experiences and the rich history of one week spent visiting the 16 Grande Marques houses of Champagne. In this third part, I will take you on a journey to Möet Chandon, Hiedsieck & Co Monopole, G.H. Mumm, Perrier-Jöuet sharing not only the historical background of each house but also my personal encounters and the wines that left a lasting impression'

Möet Chandon

Location: Epernay

Moët & Chandon, established in 1743 by Claude Moët, reached its peak under his grandson Jean Remy Moët. The introduction of vintage champagne in 1840 marked a significant milestone, with the first vintage marketed in 1842. Their flagship brand, Brut Impérial, debuted in the 1860s. Today, Moët & Chandon stands as the world’s largest champagne producer, crafting over 26 million bottles annually from its extensive 1,190-hectare vineyard, predominantly Grand Cru and Premier Cru classified.

Let’s explore the opulent Moët & Chandon’s Trianon at the Avenue de Champagne in Epernay where we’ve spent an unforgettable afternoon and evening. The Résidence de Trianon has been a symbol of French luxury for over two centuries. Originally constructed for Jean-Rémy Moët’s children in the early 19th century, it has since welcomed distinguished guests and undergone various renovations. Notable visitors include composer Richard Wagner, who allegedly found inspiration for his opera “Tristan und Isolde” while playing in the Trianon music room.

Allow me to emphasise once more the significance of the Résidence de Trianon in hosting the House’s illustrious guests. The feeling of being in the same place as such famous people in history was truly memorable.

We were initially greeted with luxurious and delectable canapés, accompanied by champagne served in an outdoor setting overlooking the exquisite garden. A sip of Moët & Chandon Brut from Jeroboams was a revelation - its flavours evolving slowly, revealing savoury and brioche notes that lingered long after each sip. As we strolled through the expansive garden, adorned with giant golden letters spelling “Moet,” we couldn’t help but take some pictures. That was a fun moment for us all soon to be academicians.

Ascending the stairs to the dining room, we were treated to a sumptuous 4-course dinner celebrating sea and earth dishes, accompanied by back vintages of Moët, which are always a delight. The room itself was a masterpiece of elegance, with intricate gold details adorning the ceiling and furnishings. The Grand Vintage Collection, featuring vintages such as 2015, 2015 Rosé, 2006, and 1999, quickly became favourites. The dinner, perfectly complemented by the champagne, left us filled with joy and awe at the unforgettable experience.

For your daily chic indulgence, I highly recommend investing in a magnum of Moët & Chandon Brut or Moët & Chandon Brut Rosé - an experience that truly elevates the champagne tasting experience. For more special occasions, exploring Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage, particularly the 1999 vintage with its brioche, walnut notes, and complexity, is a must. And if seeking a more recent option, the 2015 vintage will age beautifully and is already a delightful choice.

Champagne Hiedsieck & Co Monopole

Location: Epernay

Heidsieck & CO Monopole Champagne boasts a rich heritage as one of the oldest Houses in the region, tracing its roots back to 1785 when Florens-Louis Heidsieck embarked on a venture trading wool and wines in Reims, under the name “Heidsieck & CO.” Notably, in 1834, it pioneered the concept of “Monopole,” securing exclusive distribution rights for its champagnes, a move that further elevated its reputation.

Our visit to the picturesque vineyards of Heidsieck-Monopole in Bouzy during the Champagne academy left a lasting impression. Despite the summer heat, the vineyards shimmered with promise, hinting at a remarkable 2023 vintage in the making. This was our first visit in the seven days of Champagne academy, and we were eager for a glass. To fulfill our wishes, we enjoyed a lovely champagne picnic in the Parc with cellar master Pierre-Hubert Crozat.

By Parc, I mean The Mélusine Fairy Park in Tours-sur-Marne. The Mélusine Fairy Park is set to become a one-of-a-kind living space nestled in Champagne’s wine-growing region. Spanning five enchanting gardens, visitors will journey from the Champagne forest to a magical forest. Covering 5 hectares, the park is situated amidst Vranken Pommery group’s 18 hectares of wine-growing and production facilities. The park’s 5-year planting campaigns reflect a commitment to biodiversity preservation, evident in the thoughtful selection of tree species.

In this lovely setting, we savoured the current vintages of Monopole Heidsieck Silver Top and Gold Top, with a special treat of the 2002 Gold Top. Monopole Heidsieck’s reputation for quality and value shone through, with Gold Top offerings representing the premium side, boasting intricate flavours and extensive ageing potential. Meanwhile, the Silver Top champagnes offered accessible elegance, perfect for any occasion.

For your daily indulgence, I recommend the Silver Top Brut, celebrated for its agreeable and pleasant character, making it an ideal choice for a refreshing aperitif. And for those special moments, elevate your experience with the Gold Top 2018, a decadent cuvée aged for up to a decade, promising a delightful champagne journey.

Champagne G.H. Mumm

Location: Reims

Established in Reims in 1827 by a German winemaking family, Champagne House Mumm quickly rose to prominence. Mumm earned acclaim for its innovative approach to Champagne production. One of the pivotal moments for the house came in 1875 when Georges Hermann Mumm introduced the iconic red ribbon, a symbol of the Grand Cordon, awarded to Mumm champagnes for their exceptional quality. This became an enduring emblem of Mumm’s prestige and distinction.

During our tasting at Mumm’s red-themed headquarters, we were introduced to the Mumm Taste Encounters, an immersive experience designed to explore the influence of glassware on tasting perception. Presented on a marble scale with three strips from A to C, the glasses were meticulously selected to heighten our sensitivity to different smells and flavours. First, they gave us some paper strips with different notes of smells to check our sensitivity to different tasting descriptors. Then, we tasted the same Mumm champagne in different glasses.

The first glass, frosted on the outside, provided a unique tactile sensation with its icy appearance and grainy texture. A fine stem with sharp edges and an aluminium base added to the sensory experience. The glass is also much lighter than a standard champagne glass. Holding the stem made the champagne taste sharper and crisper. In contrast, the second glass featured a smooth, glossy bowl tinted with a deep, saturated purple colour. It was weighty, characterised by a thick, super-heavy stem and a smooth, wide, polished stainless-steel base, offering a substantial feel in hand, with a distinct tasting experience.

We began our exploration with the Mumm Grand Cordon Rosé, sampling it from both glasses to perceive any variations in flavour profile. While the regular glass accentuated the wine’s fresh and fruity aromas, the heavier glass imparted a richer texture, revealing nuanced layers of flavour, including hints of cooked berries and toasty pastry notes.

Transitioning to the Mumm Brut Cordon Rouge, we observed how the characteristics of the wine were perceived differently in each glass. In the lighter frosted glass, the wine’s citrus notes were accentuated, creating an impression of delicate freshness and effervescence, while holding the sharp stem gave you a sense of crispiness on the finish. With the heavier, purple glass, the champagne seemed bolder and rounder.

This experiment underscored the intricate relationship between glassware and tasting perception, offering an understanding of how subtle variations in design can influence the sensory experience of Champagne tasting. It left us with much to discuss for the rest of the afternoon.

Champagne Perrier-Jouët

Location: Epernay

Founded in 1811, Perrier-Jouët epitomizes elegance and excellence in Champagne production. Its signature use of Chardonnay and floral character, accentuated by fruit flavors from Cramant vineyards, has earned it global acclaim. The introduction of the iconic Belle Époque cuvée in 1856, adorned with Emile Gallé’s anemone motif, solidified its reputation for quality. Pioneering transparency, Perrier-Jouët was the first to display vintage years on its bottles. Its prestigious Belle Époque cuvée, launched in 1969, continues to represent the pinnacle of Champagne craftsmanship, sourced from prized Grand Cru plots.

Our day at Perrier Jouet began with an exclusive tour of their cellars and the Cellier Belle Époque, a charming bar garden offering a delightful setting to enjoy glasses of PJ. Situated on the renowned Avenue de Champagne in Épernay, the estate’s front courtyard has been transformed into a breathtaking garden, reminiscent of the floral motifs adorning their iconic Belle Époque bottles. Le Cellier Belle Époque, housed within the historic Maison Belle Époque, offers a unique space to sample Perrier-Jouët’s various cuvées amidst elegant surroundings. This mansion, a UNESCO World Heritage site acquired by the Perrier-Jouët family in 1850.

Our journey continued into the hidden cellars beneath Maison Belle Époque, revealing awe-inspiring art installations commissioned by Perrier-Jouët. Such as Glithero’s “Lost

Time,” originally created for the Design Miami Art Fair, features beautiful beads hanging like dewdrops reflected in water, creating a sense of disorientation and timelessness. Simon Heijdens’ “Phare No.1-9” translates wind data into mesmerizing light patterns within suspended glass vessels. These installations, along with the historic Eden cellar housing the oldest champagne vintages, including the renowned Perrier-Jouët 1825, left an indelible impression. Unfortunately, the cellars are not open to visits.

While we were still mesmerized and shocked about everything we’ve seen, we were received by the cellar master, Severine Frerson, for a tasting called ‘The Art of Chardonnay.’ Here, we had a lovely time trying the current vintages of their Cuvees and Belle Epoque. I left the place feeling more enriched than ever after the cellar visit. It’s truly a shame that such a magnificent place remains inaccessible to the public. It’s almost like a piece of heaven underground.

For your daily chic drink, try Blanc de Blancs, a stunningly pure, lean champagne showcasing the best that Chardonnay can offer you. For more special occasions, I would recommend the Belle Epoque Blanc de Blancs 2017, the most stunning sip you can ever have.

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