The glass stem feels fragile between my fingers, and for a moment I am afraid that the full bodied champagne flute I am holding will topple out of my hands, sending Rosé Imperial splashing across the carpet.
When asked about the unusual size of the glass, the Maison Ambassador, Yumi Laforge, tells me that in order to fully appreciate a fine champagne, you need to be totally immersed in the experience, engaging all the senses.
“A wider flute allows you to smell the champagne before you taste it,” she explains.
And as Yumi leans in to first smell, and then sip her rosé, it is clear that even after years of working here, she is seduced by the aroma.
“It’s just…beautiful,” she exclaims, and I too am intoxicated.
I am sitting in the private tasting room at the headquarters of one of the world’s most recognisable Champagne brands, Moët & Chandon.
On the table in front of me, a glass of Brut Impérial bubbles away, and with another glass in my hand at only 11 in the morning, I’m feeling a little bit extravagant.
The room itself is meticulous.
Like the champagne which is produced in the caves just below the estate, the whole house is steeped in tradition.
It is a throwback to the elegance of the original clientele.
These days however, Moët & Chandon welcomes some 87,000 visitors to the caves each year and exports around 80% of the champagne produced here to other parts of the world.
Historically, the house was the private home of the Moët (later Chandon) family, and guests welcomed here included none other than the Emperor Napoleon Bonaparte, after whom the Impérial collection is named.
“The two men were very good friends”, Yumi says of Jean-Remy Moët and the Emperor.
Napoleon apparently made at least three visits to the house of Moët during his lifetime, and would even take bottles of champagne with him on his political tours and military campaigns, aiding in the original international distribution of the brand.
Indeed, the tradition of celebrating by popping the cork on a bottle of champagne can be credited to Napoleon, who was said to open a bottle after every military victory.
Just off the main entrance hall of the Moët & Chandon building is the entrance to the caves.
The smell of damp earth is overpowering as we step through the door and begin our descent.
The temperature drops rapidly to between 10 and 12 degrees celsius, kept consistent throughout the year to ensure that conditions are prime for producing the best quality champagnes.
“We only use the best grapes from the region” Yumi explains as we begin to walk through rows of Magnum bottles.
“We want to express the diversity of the region through our champagnes, so only the finest grapes are selected.”
Traditionally, Moët’s highest selling bottle, the Brut Impérial is made from a blend of 33% of each Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay grapes.
Depending on the success of the harvest, a small amount of wine retained from last year’s harvest may need to be added to the new wines as they are being prepared.
“This ensures that we have a consistent taste and the highest quality year after year.”
Of the two champagnes that I have had the pleasure to taste here at Moët & Chandon, I can say without a doubt that I was most impressed by the Rosé Impérial.
It not only appealed to me with its slightly richer and more seductive taste, but I was finally won over by Yumi’s passion for it.
“People think that Rosé champagnes are new, but they’re not. They are newly commercialised and growing in popularity” she says.
A glass of Rosé Impérial is best paired with intense flavours.
“A salmon or beef carpaccio would be perfect, and married with a salad of tomato and basil and a red berry dessert to follow”.
I’m totally won over.
However, the Brut Impérial, with its fresh fruitiness is no less appealing.
It is easy to see why it is the most popular, due to its versatile nature and light taste.
“It can be a drink on its own, or paired with any part of a meal and it fits” Yumi explains.
A Brut Impérial is recommended as a compliment to light meat such as a white fish, veal or chicken.
Better yet, try it with a dessert such as a tarte au pêche, and watch the fruity flavours come alive.
And as the weather slowly starts to warm up, keep an eye out for the latest addition to the Impérial collection.
The Moët Ice Impérial is sold exclusively in Summer, and made to be served over ice.
Ideal for beach-side picnics and Christmas parties.
Moët & Chandon is in Epernay, Champagne, and is approximately 160 kms
north east of Paris.
It is easily accessible by car or train from Paris.
Champagne Moët & Chandon
20 avenue de Champagne