Moët & Chandon recently unveiled its Grand Vintage 2015, the House’s 76th white and 45th rosé vintage, made from grapes harvested in the late summer of 2015
The year 2015 tells a story of bright light and summer heat. It was, in many ways, a year of awakening, brought on by the consciousness of a warming climate and its impact on the Champagne region.
The harvest, which lasted 21 days, got underway on September 7 under bright light in a serene atmosphere, despite the heterogeneous progression of fruit maturity from hydric stress.
Within days of the start of harvest, heavy showers battered the vineyards. Nevertheless, the fruit had matured well, with good concentration and striking aromas.
Red-skinned grapes were exceptional: the Meuniers were splendid, and the Pinot Noirs revealed a maturity with a powerful, fruity nose and full-bodied finish. The fruit was healthy with well-ripened grapes radiating brilliantly.
At the end of a serene harvest, grape health and yield were satisfactory. Incessant rains, despite creating challenging conditions for pickers, did not impact the health and quality of the grapes.
The juices flowed well, and maturity was good with an average of 10.5% vol of potential alcohol. With 6.9 g H2SO4/L and an average pH of 3.09, the acidity was below the 10-year average, without cause for concern, given that the value was close to those of 2005 and 2006.
While an unprecedented drought from March to August threatened the nitrogen richness of grapes, especially in the Chardonnay, winemakers ensured proper fermentation and obtained interesting wines full of character.
The Cellar Master was able to select wines made from the region’s three grape varieties in quality levels that met the exigencies of a Moët & Chandon Grand Vintage from both the House’s superb estate and an extraordinary diversity of wines provided by vineyard partners.
The 2015 vintage has a pale vibrant colour: a bright lemon-yellow hue, with luminous glints, fine bubbles and creamy foam. The vegetal bouquet appears restrained at first and suggests a soft and fresh world of white and green.
The first notes of baked bread (bread crumb, fresh brioche, marzipan) give way to elderflower and jasmine, then to fruity notes such as white peach and watermelon. Notes of garrigue at dawn complete the bouquet.
On the palate, the attack is frank and confident. The structure is ample and supple without heaviness, evoking cotton flowers. The enveloping and caressing texture is accompanied by floral, aniseed and mint nuances that lend lightness and freshness to such a light-filled vintage.
The palate finishes on a slightly sappy note, with a delicate bitterness reminiscent of fresh almonds.
The Grand Vintage Rosé 2015 is distinctive by its brilliance, its spicy bouquet and its powerful palate. Garnet-pink shades with bluish reflections shine through its fine bubbles and creamy foam.
Its initial aromas suggest sun-ripened dark berries, perhaps blackcurrant, blackberry and black cherry. Hints of fig and wild strawberry combine with spicy notes of pink and aromatic pepper, and all-spice.
Scents of flowery garrigue refresh the ensemble. On the palate, the Pinot Noir dominates with a fruit that is concentrated, dark and deep. The tannins create angles, revealing facets, like a jewel in the rough.
The mouth-watering bitterness of sloe and cranberry, with notes of mint and aniseed, refreshes the finish.
The choice of a main ingredient (meat, fish, vegetable) is to be cooked appropriately, as a foundation to establish texture and juiciness to match the wine’s ripeness. Secondary ingredients echo the tenderness of the Champagne.
Ideal choices are delicate and exotic white fruits, light and herby jus, small green vegetables (broad beans, peas) and a vegetable garnish of watercress, parsley, tarragon and artichoke heart.
As always, the pairing calls for adjusting the salinity to underscore the flavours and highlight the dialogue between the dish and the Grand Vintage 2015.
Inspirational dishes for this food pairing are winter melon steak with almond powder; snacked scallop tempura with tarragon; or green tomato gazpacho with roasted langoustine.
To suit the powerful, faceted palate of the Grand Vintage Rosé 2015, a modern, minimalist version of traditional cooking or dishes of Indian inspiration come to mind.
A hint of vegetable freshness (freshly cut grass), aromatic peppers (Szechuan, Timut, Javan long), or sweet preparations of naturally bitter ingredients, like candied grapefruit zest with spices, will underscore the chorus of flavours.
But how can one make a great Champagne after such an unusual year? Moët & Chandon’s Cellar Master, Benoit Gouez, replies: “The drought had an impact on the nitrogen richness of the grapes, especially the Chardonnay. We had to be very attentive to ensure proper fermentation. In the end, we obtained interesting wines full of character.”