Moet & Chandon 2008 Vintage Champagnes

Champagne in Epernay: The Moet & Chandon Cellar Tour & Tasting

Posted on Posted in Activities/Experiences, Paris, Travel, Wine
Moet & Chandon Cellar Tour & Tasting Epernay
Lovely sight at Moet & Chandon in Epernay

On my last visit to Paris, I spent the day in the Loire Valley in the midst of wine & castles so this time I wanted to see the Avenue of Champagne in Epernay, more specifically, I wanted to visit for the Moet & Chandon Cellar Tour and experience the champagne.  There are two ways to visit Epernay from Paris – one is by guided day tour (expensive – over €200 pp), the other is my do it yourself (DIY) version for under €100 pp.

Moet & Chandon Cellar Tour – Reservations Required

If you want to visit the Moet & Chandon cellar tour in Epernay on your own, you need a reservation in advance.  Go to their website to request a date and time.  You will receive a reply in a few days (make sure to double-check the date/time as my first confirmation was wrong) with a reservation number.  When you arrive you need the reservation number and then you will be asked what type of tasting you want with the tour (each tasting type is a different cost).

The Avenue of Champagne in Epernay

The Moet & Chandon location is easy to find on the Avenue of Champagne across from the Tourism office.  From the train station walk straight, crossing the street into the park and then at the exit to the street, the tourism office is on your right while Moet & Chandon is across the road in front of you.

Epernay France Avenue de Champagne
What a lovely sign of tasty drinks to come on our day in Epernay – an hour outside of Paris
Moet & Chandon Cellar Tour Epernay
On the Avenue de Champange in Epernay, the Moet & Chandon building looks rather plain and unassuming

 

Lining the Avenue of Champagne are many champagne houses, some that you’ve heard of and many others that you haven’t.  A few offer tasting rooms or outdoor patio spaces while Perrier Jouet is not open to the public.

Avenue de Champagne Epernay France
On the Avenue de Champagne, the streets are lined with many champagne houses, some offering tastings up and down the street

It can only be labeled “champagne” if it comes from this region of France.  They are quite strict with the name “champagne”.  In other countries, their sparkling wine is “Cava” in Spain and “Prosecco” in Italy.  All sparkling wines.

The Moet & Chandon Cellar Tour

Arriving at the main entrance there is a guard to check bags in front of the Moet & Chandon store (our last stop on the tour, lest anyone leave without a gift shop stop) and direct you to the reservations desk.  Walking up a few stairs into a new building, you are instantly surrounded by what looks and feels like a luxury hotel lobby in white.

Moet & Chandon Cellar tour house lobby
The Moet & Chandon house lobby for the cellar tour
Moet & Chandon Cellar Tour House Lobby
The Moet & Chandon Cellar Tour House Lobby is more luxury hotel waiting area

 

Approaching the front desk in the corner to check in, I provided our reservation number and chose our tasting package.  The main tour with one tasting is €23, two tastings €28 and the vintage tasting €35.  Children under 17 (no sips allowed) are €10 for the tour. Mom isn’t  normally a drinker and her champagne exposure has been at a few weddings over the years (and that wasn’t the good stuff) so we picked the regular tasting for her while I chose the vintage option.

Moet & Chandon Cellar Tour and Tasting Tickets
The Moet & Chandon Cellar Tour and Tasting Tickets

Our guide arrived and our small party of ten followed her in the house to see portraits of the men who would start Moet & Chandon, the monk who inspired Dom Perignon label and then led to a room to watch a video presentation (offered in many languages). Once the video ended we would descend the stairs to begin the cellar tour (bring a sweater/cardigan/scarf as it is a bit chilly underground – the guide wore a coat).

Moet & Chandon portrait in Epernay
One of the founders of Moet & Chandon
Moet & Chandon Cellar tour Epernay
Everyone loves Moet & Chandon champagne no matter what language

We would wander the stone halls (or streets with numbered caves) learning about the labor intensive process for the champagne to mature over many years and how the bottles are stores, stacked, moved and eventually become bottles of Moet & Chandon or Dom Perignon that is sold in stores around the world for people to enjoy and celebrate special occasions.

Moet & Chandon cellar tour
Moet & Chandon cellar tour – cool lighting and caves stocked with champagne
Moet & Chandon cellar tour
Rows of Champagne in various stages at Moet & Chandon

I’ve visited many wineries and cellars around the world including the Moet & Chandon location in the Yarra Valley of Australia but this cellar in Epernay was so unique because of its history (270 years young) and winding streets of nearly 17 miles of tunnels underground!

Moet & Chandon Cellar Tour Epernay
One of many hallways of champange in the cool underground cellar in Epernay

 

Moet & Chandon – Champagne Surprises

One surprising fact is that the bottles are moved by card and loaded by hand.  Many modern wineries will have forklifts or other machinery to turn the bottles as I saw in Spain at the Bertha Cava winery.  The Moet & Chandon process is quite labor intensive.

Moet & Chandon Cellar Tour Epernay
Stacked by hand, this cave is full of Moet & Chandon champagne aging

Another surprise was finding out that the champagne is made with a variety of grapes grown in the region from producers – M&C don’t own their vines or the grapes.  So each year the grapes arrive the folks need to try to replicate a taste that the consumer is familiar with.  Think how difficult that must be with the mix of grapes that through the season of nature’s sun and rain produce a different flavor each time.  The team at Moet & Chandon Epernay need to get the right blend and ingredients sorted to keep the product consistent.  They blend the Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay grapes to create their many varieties of Champagne – Imperial, Rose, Ice and others.

Moet & Chandon Cellar Tour and Tasting
Underground on the Moet & Chandon Cellar Tour and Tasting

Vintage means it is uniquely original and the cellar maker’s interpretation of that year’s harvest.  The 2008 Rose that I would taste had been aged for 7 years.

Moet & Chandon 2008 Vintage Champagne
My Moet & Chandon Vintage 2008 Tasting of the Imperial Brut & Rose Champagnes in Epernay France

There is a lot of recycling when making wine and champagne.  The final bottle you buy is not the same bottle that went through the aging process. So on the tour we walked through a room of glass bottles.

Moet & Chandon Cellar Tour
Bottles at Moet & Chandon

Luxury Champagne Dom Perignon

The monk that has a champagne after himself gets special treatment in the hallway of the cellar.  The caves are reserved for quantity of champagne and Dom is produced in small batches which is why it is so expensive.  The process to go from grape to Dom takes more than ten years! While most champagnes are ready to drink when purchased, a bottle of Dom Perignon can be stored and enjoyed years after purchase (if you have the willpower to wait).

Dom Perignon Moet & Chandon Epernay
Dom Perignon was a monk who gave the world a luxury brand of champagne
Dom Perignon gift shop
Dom Perignon luxury champagne in the Moet & Chandon gift shop

Moet & Chandon Tasting Room

As dark as the prior room was with the recycled bottles and the tunnels were lowly lit, opening the tasting room door and you are awash in light – bright light – so much light that when your eyes adjust you see that champagne is being poured waiting for your group to taste Moet & Chandon.

Moet & Chandon Champagne Tasting Room
No matter what the bottle size, the Moet & Chandon champagne is a sign of luxury

The transition from dark to light alerts all of your senses so I think (but don’t scientifically know) it makes the tasting that much tastier.  Watching the pour, set the anticipation factor on high with no fanfare, we handed our tickets to exchange for our champagne glass(es).

Our little group kept to themselves so Mom and I toasted our last day in Paris.  As Mom rarely drinks alcohol, the Imperial champagne took time to get used to for her (at first – see the Concorde Room Review for more on this).  I had no problem with my 2008 Vintage glasses, preferring the rose over the brut.  Mom tried both of mine and agreed that the rose was nicer.

Moet & Chandon 2008 Vintage Champagnes
The Vintage 2008 Moet & Chandon Imperial and Rose Champagnes

Moet & Chandon Gift Shop

Of course, no tour is complete without the gift shop visit except this is Moet & Chandon so the gift shop is a luxury experience, one that almost guaranteed I would be making a purchase.  Filled with a variety of champagne in all types and sizes as well as clothing and accessories, temptation abounded.

Moet & Chandon cellar tour champagne gift shop
The luxury gift shop of champagne at Moet & Chandon in Epernay France
Moet & Chandon Cellar tour
Not sure why you need a pink Moet & Chandon glass but the gift shop sells them
Moet & Chandon cellar tour
Dressed in White, the Moet & Chandon options at the gift shop

Since we had to travel the next day on Eurostar to London, we didn’t want to carry large bottles so bought the cute little bottles of the rose champagne to give as gifts.  They cost €16 for each mini bottle.  We mentioned traveling so each bottle was bubble wrapped and then put into our bag.  This was good (easy to pack, safe from breakage) and bad (we couldn’t drink them now).

Moet & Chandon Rose Champagne Mini Bottles
Cute mini bottles of Moet & Chandon Rose Champagne
Mini bottles Moet & Chandon champagne
Mini bottles of Moet & Chandon champange

Final Tasting Notes – Moet & Chandon Cellar Tour

Even if you aren’t quite the champagne fan like Mom (I’d argue it’s because you haven’t been drinking champagne at all), the Moet & Chandon Cellar tour in Epernay is a fun day trip outside of Paris (one hour by train approx. €50 return per person) to experience the uniqueness of this town (which is easily walkable or you can take the little tourist train for a tour).  Mom enjoyed learning about the champagne process, seeing the history underground and trying her first glass of Moet & Chandon.  The Moet & Chandon cellar tour is a wonderful introduction to champagne and its storied history in France.

Moet & Chandon cellar tour Epernay
Champagne tasting at Moet & Chandon in Epernay
Moet & Chandon Cellar tour Epernay
Corrupting Mom with the fancy Moet & Chandon champagne in Epernay

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