Stirling, wearing his usual suit of flamboyant joie de vivre, finds he’s not as well-educated as the rest of us already know…
I am an idiot, obviously. For years I have been dropping the ’t’ and pronouncing it with a subtle, slightly French lilt. Moh-ay. No. Wrong. Terribly, terribly wrong. It is, as our host and most knowledgeable friend from Moët & Chandon Justine Proy says: Mo-et. Hard T. This is not Pernod. Thankfully. The fine surroundings of Home House lend themselves to kindness, and the generous staff, along with our discreet host, either do not hear or choose to overlook this rookie faux pas, for which I am grateful. I suspect they will enjoy a laugh or two over a magnum at a later date.
As much as we love to sip champagne in fine surroundings, it is even better when paired with food. With the recent appointment of Marco Fadiga as Moët & Chandon’s new executive chef you can be sure time and care has been taken to make each mouthful match the vintage. As delicious as the food is, however, it’s the champagne I’m here to savour.
Bursting forth is the Grand Vintage 2008. A bright pale yellow with glimmers of green and a fine, dynamic bead – I do like a good bead – I should probably look longer at the delicate bead, but to hell with that. I bring the wide brimmed glass to my nose – and this is important – the wide brim allows that full bouquet to reveal itself. Initial floral notes of linden, honeysuckle and acacia, with hints of citrus, manifest. After that initial burst, prepare for just-ripe stone fruits — white peach, nectarine and Mirabelle plums, they all vie for your attention.
If you are really going to delve deeply into it, the bouquet is completed by gentle scents of pastry, brioche, frangipane, almonds and vanilla with a slight hint of white pepper. Wow. Complex.
I take a small sip. Fool! This needs to be tasted properly, so I quickly take another less miserly gulp and let the full character pass across my palate. This vintage is vivacious and lively; I’d like to think just like me, but I’m still mildly subdued from my initial mispronunciation. The white fruits return bringing a fresh, vibrant, mouth-watering finish with a lingering note of citrus fruit. Yum.
The masterful blend (or assemblage) starts with the predominant and expected 40% Chardonnay, closely followed by 37% Pinot Noir and Meunier at 23%. There are 5g of sugar per litre, which compared to some very early bottles opened, enjoyed and tested is relatively low. An 1887 was found to have a diabetes-inducing 120g of sugar per litre. Then, however, champagne was served as we would a desert wine today.
Our hosts sum the 2008 up in three words: spring-like, lively, buff. I dare not make another comparison to myself here, so we shall move on. Carefully selected by Benoît Gouez, Moët & Chandon’s chef de cave, the unique Grand Vintage 2008 embodies the most remarkable wines from an exceptional year in Champagne.
Champagne is a love affair, and this one was started in 1743 by Claude Moët. It has blossomed over many years and finally we are given this current zesty, vibrant kiss on the lips by the Grand Vintage 2008. As I let it kiss me one more time, quietly, softly, it whispers – Moët, darling, Moët. Hard T, sweetie. I close my eyes and all is forgiven.
The unique Grand Vintage 2008 is available from uk.moet.com and all good vintners, priced at £40.