Moët & Chandon in Champagne, France

In summer of 2016, I was accepted to participate in the Thomas Ahrens International Study Program in Paris, France. Throughout our stay in Paris we have been fortunate to explore and learn Paris’s renowned cuisine, fashion, popular landmarks, architecture, history, language, and many more. In addition, as students from Hospitality Management we had a chance to visit France’s historical province in the northeast of France, which is now best known as the Champagne wine region for the sparkling wine that bears its name. As a student who is currently enrolled in Wine and Beverage Management course, I decided to write about my educational experience to Champagne region of France, by bringing in the knowledge that I have gained from the class during this Spring 2017 semester.

The champagne caves was over 17 miles long.

In June 6, 2016, we had an opportunity to visit the two wineries that are located within the Champagne region: “Moët & Chandon” and “Champagne Geoffroy”. Our first stop was at Moët & Chandon located in Epernay, Champagne. It was about two-hour ride on the bus and is approximately 160 km north east of Paris. Upon entrance to the house of Moet & Chandon, we were introduced to our tour guide who was a Japanese lady, with full of knowledge about the house. Tour started off with a brief history of the house, followed by a short video. According to their website and my recall from the video, the Moët & Chandon has been the champagne of success since 1743. Faithful to its founding philosophy of “sharing the magic of champagne with the world”, Moët & Chandon offers a wide range of wines, from the iconic “Moët Impérial” and “Rosé Impérial” to the “Grand Vintages”, the cellar master’s own interpretation of the year’s harvest. (Moët & Chandon, Champagne, 2017).

After the video has ended, we walked through the 17 miles of underground cellars. Going down into the cave, we could immediately sense the cold 10°C (50 F) degrees’ air. The tour guide started by explaining the defining points of the Champagne region and Champagne making process which consisted of two fermentations. Since, I was a student who know next to nothing about wine, I did not understand what the tour guide was talking about. However, using my knowledge gained from the class, I can now explain the whole four methods of making the Champagne or the sparkling wine that consists of “Carbonation Method”, “Traditional Method” (better known as Méthode Champenoise); “Transfer Method”, and “Charmat Method” (also known as the Tank Method). The difference between Champagne and other sparkling wine, is that Champagne can only be produced in the Champagne region of France, and can only use three traditional grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. According to their website, each grape varietal contributes its own special qualities to the uniquely delectable pleasure of Moët & Chandon champagnes. Sparkling wines outside of the Champagne region go by many other names, but none of them are Champagne.

Rows of riddling racks filled with bottles, also known as Remuage (rotating the dead yeast cells ‘lees’ towards bottle neck).

This sign reads as follows: 1st line – wine master’s secret code, 2nd line – location in the caves, 3rd line – number of bottles in this group.

The enormous barrel of port (a gift from Napoleon to Moët from a trip in Portugal).

 

 

 

 

As we were walking through the dark alleyways lined with thousands of fermenting bottles, the tour guide explained the entire process of “Methode Champenoise” that starts off with the process known as Assemblage (the grapes are gently pressed to avoid any color extraction from the skins, next the juice is fermented to dryness, and the different wines are blended); Liqueur de tirage (yeast and sugar is added into the wine bottle to start the second fermentation); Remuage (rotating the dead yeast cells ‘lees’ towards bottle neck);  Disgorgement (freeze and remove ‘lees’ in bottleneck); the bottle is then topped off with a final dosage known as Liqueur d’ expedition (a mixture of wine and sugar that will determine the final sweetness level of the finished product), then corked, caged, and labeled.

As our tour continued, we entered the tasting room where the Champagne glasses were lined up, followed by tasting under the guidance of a professional sommelier (wine steward), who presented the three types of Champagnes that are “Imperial”, “Rose Imperial” and “Nectar Imperial”.  As I remember, we were given glasses of “Impérial Champagne” to taste. The Champagne we tasted was considered as non-vintage, light and delicate. The main difference between vintage and non-vintage Champagnes is that, the vintage is made from the grapes of only one year’s harvest, whereas non-vintage Champagne is a blend of different years’ harvest.

Tasting under the guidence of a professional sommelier.

Tasting, sample of the Impérial Champagne. 

 

 

 

 

 

Gift shop of Moet & Chandon.

 

Exiting the tasting room, we got back to the ground floor and have entered the fabulous gift shop of Champagne house Moët & Chandon, where we were exposed to all types of Champagnes that are produced there. The prices varied from low to very expensive.

To conclude, as a student who is enrolled in Wine and Beverage Management course, I was able to get a better understanding and use of wine terminology to explain about the entire process of making the sparkling wine, by recalling my visit to Champagne region of France, from summer of 2016. Even though, I did not have a basic knowledge about wine during my visit, I can still say that it was the most memorable and educational tours I have ever been part of. If there is an opportunity in the future, I would not hesitate to go there again and would recommend to anyone who enjoys or interested learning about wine.

References

Eat love Savor Luxury Lifestyle Magazine. DISCOVER: Moet & Chandon Champagne. Retrieved from EAT LOVE SAVOR: http://eatlovesavor.com/moet-chandon-champagne/

Moët & Chandon, Champagne. SUCCESS & GLAMOUR. Retrieved from Moët & Chandon: https://us.moet.com/The-House

Sparkling Wine Production. Retrieved from The Sommelier Update: http://arrowheadwine.blogspot.com/2012/06/sparkling-wine-production.html

 

Slope Cellars

It was my first time visiting a retail beverage shop. From the given suggested list of stores, I had chosen Ambassador Wine and Spirits located at 1020 2nd Ave. However, when I called them in advance asking if I could arrange a meeting with a manager or any other store employee, the store informed me that they will not be able to assist me during my visit due to the blizzard warning for the city coming on Tuesday, all their employees will be on a very demanding schedule. Even though, I have encountered the same situations with a few other retail shops I decided to visit a store that is not too far away from my house. As a beginner who does not have much experience visiting a liquor store, with my father’s assistance I could visit Slope Cellars which was a family owned retail shop, located at 436 7th Avenue, Brooklyn, NY 11215.

Stephen Moses, one of the knowledgeable staff members in Slope Cellars (his permission was granted to post the picture).

Upon entering the store, we were welcomed with its friendly staff and welcoming atmosphere. As I kindly explained the reason for me visiting the store, one of the owners who is Stephen Moses was happy to show me around and answer all my questions.

Display of wines from Old World.

The store was not that huge, the front room was spacious filled with well-stocked shelves of wines from Old World, and a large selection of spirits on the left side of the room. The back room was stacked with boxes marked “cheap & tasty,” with a great selection of wines for under $10 per bottle. All the New World wines was also stacked in the back of the room, in addition to the small section for the kosher wines.

Display of a large selection of spirits.

On the right side is the display of wines from the New World, and in the back is the corner for Kosher wines.

 

 

 

 

Looking at the shelves, I could tell that Slope Cellars offered more of Old World wines than New World. However, all the wines in the shelves were properly organized by its region and grape variety (red and white).

Red wine display of Galicia, from northwestern region of Spain

White wine display of Chablis, region in the northwest corner of Burgundy, France

According to Mr. Stephen Moses, when it comes to the prices, the Slope Cellars carried a wide-range of wines from popular to rare, affordable to wildly expensive. For example, he simple stated that dry red wines, and Prosecco among the sparkling wines are sold fast because they taste good and affordable to everyone. Furthermore, after the section of “cheap and tasty” the store also had a small section of “boxed wines” to those people who are buying for celebrations, party or any other events.

 

In addition, Mr. Stephen Moses also informed me that the temperature at the store was about 50°- 55°F to keep all the wines in its good quality. When I asked about their best variety of each red and white wines, he kindly explained that it depends on the climate which is not constant and different every season. For instance, summer in each region might be dry, hot, cool or wet and there might also be a frost which will affect the grapes quality. Interesting thing that I heard from Mr. Stephen Moses was that while frost is a disaster for many, sometimes it can be a good thing to produce an ice wine, where it is pressed from grapes that are frozen while still on the vine.

COUNTRY: Italy
REGION: Sicily
APPELLATION: Vittoria Frappato DOC
VINTAGE: 2015
GRAPE(S): 100% Frappato
TYPE: Wine – Red

Upon leaving, my father was interested in buying one of their bestselling medium bodied red wines. As the store was getting busy at the time, Mr. Moses introduced me to one of their staffs Winston Caesar, who graduated from CIA, and earned his master at NYU. He was also very knowledgeable and suggested couple of medium bodied red wines from different regions. Among the ones that he listed, my father ended up choosing an Italian red wine Valle dell’Acate 2015, “Il Frappato” for $19.99 with 10% discount.

In conclusion, my experiences visiting a retail beverage shop for the first time was fun, exciting, and very informative. As a student who is studying wine, I am glad to be able to use the knowledge I have gained in the class; as well as being able to recognize, identify and to discuss the selection of wines that they offered in the store by using a proper wine terminology words.

Overall, I am happy with my decision choosing the Slope Cellars and would recommend the store to anyone who are interested in stopping by.

Week 5: Wine of California-Sonoma Country

Image

On Thursday, March 2, 2017 in class we discussed about California Wine Regions. The 3rd largest state in the U.S and not quite 3/4th the size of France, California produces more than 90% of all wine made in the country. California wine regions
are divided into American Viticultural Areas (AVA’s) and within California there are more than 100 AVA’s. As we learned in class, the major wine growing regions are Napa and Sonoma Valleys, but within each of these regions there are also several AVA’s (sub-appelations), ranging from tiny to large. Below is our in class group assignment on Sonoma County. Week 5-Wine of California (Sonoma County)