Several wine events coalesced into the perfect storm in February and it made sense to do them all. The Italian Trade Commission held a series of tastings and seminars named Vino 2015 in New York so I flew up on the 1st of February. I met some new people with different wines from new places and will see them again at Vinitaly. The day after Vino 2015, I was off to France for a rare experience in Champagne country. One of our best suppliers, François Moutard, invited me to be inducted into the Saulte Bouchon. The Saulte what? It’s an organization of Champagne growers, owners and people around the world who are involved in the sale of the wines of the Côtes des Bars in southern Champagne where Moutard is. I was more than game. I was intrigued.
Arriving in Paris at Charles de Gaulle, I took a train to the Champagne-Ardenne station near Reims and was met at the station by the sales manager, Jean-Benoît Hery. He drove and I slept and we wound up in Chablis where François Moutard has vineyards. To say it was cold doesn’t approach the subject. Florida guys shouldn’t go there until at least May. The bright spot was tasting Moutard’s range of Chablis including six of the seven Grands Crus. I fell for the mineral-laced wines of Chablis 40 years ago when I tasted a bottle of Les Clos 1966 with friends. It was one of those wines you never forget.
We had dinner nearby and then drove to the hotel in Troyes. Troyes is a treasure of a city that has been just out of reach of two world wars and still has many of the half-timbered houses in the heart of the city from the 11th and 12th centuries. It loses a little to see a sushi restaurant or pizza parlor on the ground floor but from there up you’re in the Middle Ages.
The ceremony was in the mairie, or town hall, that night. They call the initiation an enthronement but I was relieved to see there was no throne. After a short ceremony including a pledge to fight for the honor of Champagne, “Le Vin des Rois, Le Roi des Vins,” we toasted with a glass and had a medal hung around our necks. Dinner was nearby and featured music and a lot of Champagne. It’s not just for toasting.
The next day friends picked me up and we drove over the Montagne de Reims to Reims and visited two more Champagne houses, Lanson and Thiénot. They
are in the center of the city with some of the deepest and oldest cellars in Champagne.
Off to Paris, I was invited to judge in a competition of the new Vin de France appellation wines. This very general appellation allows winemakers to blend from different regions and grape varieties to their hearts’ content. At this point, the wines are nearly all about affordability and freshness. We broke into groups and tasted well over 300 wines collectively. A few didn’t make the cut but most were solid wines and a few outstanding for the price and quality. We had dinner and then I went for a midnight walk around the city before flying home on my wife’s birthday.
We currently have these Moutard wines in stock:
The Arbane grape variety was nearly extinct in France until François Moutard isolated and cultivated it. There is barely one hectare of the variety in existence today. The Moutard Arbane vines are over 50 years old. Arbane is a white variety that yields floral and candy aromas and a rich body with lively acidity. The wine develops complexity with age. $79.99
Moutard Cuvée des 6 Cépages 2007 – Champagne, France
One of the most unique Champagnes offered, Moutard’s Cuvée des 6 Cépages is equal parts Pinot Noir, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Meunier, Chardonnay, Petit Meslier and Arbanne from vineyards in Buxeuil and Polisy, which are both in the Côte des Bar. The last two varieties are nearly extinct but François Moutard has saved them with less than a hectare of each. $56.99
Moutard’s Demi-sec is 100% Pinot Noir planted on clay/limestone soil. The grapes are hand-harvested and fermentation is done in stainless steel. The wine is aged for 36 months in bottle and has 40 grams per liter of residual sugar. The wine shows just a touch of fruitiness with toasty almond notes. $32.99