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Moët previews ‘ample’ 2006 vintage

Moët & Chandon cellar master Benoît Gouez unveiled the house’s 2006 vintage in London yesterday, after deciding to skip a vintage style from 2005.

Benoit Gouez, Moët & Chandon cellar master, introduces the house’s 2006 vintage

Making its first appearance outside Epernay, Moët’s 2006 vintage is not due to reach the market until May this year, when it is expected to carry an RRP of £42.99

Running through comparisons with the house’s most recent vintages, the “energetic” 2000, the “rich, opulent” 2002, the “upfront, muscular” 2003 and the “more sophisticated, racy, very precise” 2004, Gouez summed up 2006 as “ample, but nevertheless light in the middle and a finish that is not so much about acidity but freshness.”

He recalled Champagne’s growing conditions in 2006, describing them as “up and down all year long,” when wet weather alternated with very warm periods. “It was saved by September,” Gouez remarked, noting that the warm, dry conditions and cool nights helped to halt any botrytis which had developed during August.

Nevertheless, with uneven maturation of the grapes, Gouez cited the importance of a “collective decision” by the Champenois for villages to stagger their harvest start date between 7 and 25 September.

“The weather was good so there was no risk,” he noted, while adding that the drawn out harvest “helped to reach more homogeneity.”

Another factor highlighted by Gouez as helping producers to preserve quality in 2006 was the fact that, at 13,000 kilograms per hectare, “the yield was high enough to sort the grapes a bit; we could afford to lose some.”

Turning to the varietal components of Moët’s ‘06 vintage, Gouez noted the particular quality of Chardonnay in this year. However, while describing it as “ripest, cleanest” and “best in terms of fruitiness and expression,” he added: “It was also the lowest acidity.”

Instead, this element was provided in ‘06 by Pinot Meunier. Although acknowledging the variety’s “lower maturity” and greater incidence of botrytis, Gouez remarked: “The good thing is that it had the acidity we needed.” It was a similar story in the notoriously warm year of 2003, when Moët’s vintage featured as much as 42% Pinot Meunier.

As a result of these factors, the final blend for the ‘06 vintage constitutes 42% Chardonnay, 39% Pinot Noir, whose quality Gouez summed up as “clean, no rot, good ripeness,” and the remaining 19% filled by Pinot Noir.

Moët’s 2006 vintage marks a distinct contrast with the style and components of Champagne Mumm, which launched its own vintage from this year last summer. Here, chef de cave Didier Mariotti introduced a “shy” wine, which stayed true to the house’s Pinot Noir-led style.

Gouez also confirmed that Moët would launch a 2006 rosé, although this will not appear until the end of the year. “It’s just for stock management; there’s no technical reason,” he remarked.

2006 also marks the first year in which the entire Moët range will feature disgorgement dates on its back label, a move which Gouez has been steadily implementing since the

Moët shows the disgorgement date on its 2006 vintage

2004 vintage.

Despite his shift in recent years when making a vintage expression to “focus much more on the selection of the most interesting wines out of the harvest rather than any recipe or Moët house style,” Gouez defended his decision to skip a vintage in 2005.

“There won’t be any ‘05 at Moët despite it being a great year in Bordeaux and Burgundy – we are in Champagne and it hasn’t been great here,” he remarked.

Expressing frustration at the “prejudice” which sees many customers assume that conditions in Champagne mirror those of France’s other traditional fine wine regions, Gouez cited 2013 as another example of this difference. Despite the challenging growing season experienced last year by many producers in Bordeaux and Burgundy, he predicted: “There will be great 2013 Champagnes.”

However, not all the Champenois share this view, with Jacquart’s chef de cave Florence Eznack telling db recently: “Personally I don’t think 2013 is good enough to be a vintage year.”

Explaining the challenge of ‘05 in Champagne, Gouez said: “It was not a bad year but there was a lot of botrytis – not on the Chardonnay though so you might have some interesting blanc de blancs for ‘05.”

However, he continued, “The styles based on red grapes, from what I have tasted, tend to lack freshness and expression and they will age very fast.”

Despite these concerns from the Moët stable, a number of other respected houses have already released a 2005 vintage, including Louis Roederer’s Cristal and Taittinger Comtes de Champagne, which has been warmly received by merchants.

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