Moet & Chandon bet on blended champagne with first multi-vintage bubbly, MCIII

For most of his decade-long career with French champagne house Moet & Chandon, winemaker Marc Brevot has been taking a big gamble on a new bubbly and had no idea how it would turn out.

He was part of a team of 10 winemakers that crafted the 273-year- old company's first multi-vintage champagne, called MCIII. The bubbly, which took 15 years to materialise, was launched in France in September last year.

Instead of typically being matured in stainless steel vats before being bottled, the MCIII champagne, which is a blend of vintage wines, undergoes a three-stage blending process.

About 40 per cent of the blend is made from chardonnay and pinot noir reserve wines that have been matured for one to three years in stainless steel vats. This is then blended with three Grand Vintage wines that date back to 1998 that have been aged in French oak casks. Lastly, the concoction is finished off by uncorking Grand Vintage champagnes that have been in glass bottles for more than two decades.

Mr Brevot, 45, says with a chuckle: "We put together things that do not usually go together in wine-making, from mixing non-vintage and vintage wines to playing around with maturation techniques. You do not know what to expect, so you just let Mother Nature do her work during the maturation process."

Mr Marc Brevot is part of a team that created the multi-vintage champagne MCIII. PHOTO: MOET & CHANDON

The Frenchman was in town last week to launch the MCIII here. About 120 bottles will be available for sale. A 750ml bottle costs $750.

The classical music fan says crafting the MCIII is akin to conducting a symphony. The first stratum is like the main melody played by the woodwind instruments and trumpets.

"It is the foundation of the champagne, with intense and bright fruit flavours that survive through the additions of the two stratums, as the 2003 vintage is made from very ripe grapes during a warm year."

The second stratum is similar to string instruments that "soften the notes" by warming the palate with little notes of sweet spices. The final stratum resembles dark bass-like notes that set the rhythm and percussion by adding lively roasted notes.

The experimental champagne has a three-tiered nose profile, starting with notes such as coffee, licorice and Viennese pastry, followed by fruity notes of citrus peel and verbena, rounded off with a mineral finish.

He says: "Like an elegant black stallion, the depth and richness of the complex MCIII builds up gradually; it is not overwhelming and does not explode in the mouth."

The idea to create the MCIII bubbled in the late 1990s when Moet & Chandon was looking to come up with a prestige cuvee to replace Dom Perignon, which has since become a popular spin-off brand.

The wine-making team took inspiration from its Esprit du Siecle champagne, which is a blend of champagne from each decade in the 20th century to commemorate the millennium.

The team also tapped on its expertise in various wine maturation techniques, and its diversity in having about 800 base wines to concoct champagnes in the grape harvest season annually.

Moet & Chandon hopes to build up a series of the MCIII, which will be released two or three times in a decade based on the occurrence of a warm year. The intricate level of development behind it is part of Mr Brevot's job as technical adviser, in which he "troubleshoots and researches wine-making processes".

Born in St Raphael in south- eastern France, he inherited his love of wine from his father, who worked in the air force. While travelling in France with his family, he visited wineries and vineyards from Alsace to Bordeaux from the age of 10.

Despite not coming from a wine- making family, he cracked into the wine industry through a "lucky break" when he started his career at luxury goods producer LVMH Moet Hennessy in Tokyo.

A job in the research department opened up an opportunity to work with cognac at Hennessy, and later at Moet & Chandon.

Mr Brevot, who is married with two daughters aged 15 and 13, says: "It has been a dream to work with wines since I was a boy, and I am proud to talk about wines, which is a big part of my culture."

•The MCIII costs $750 for a 750ml bottle and can be bought at the Moet & Chandon office. Call 6838-9800 for more information.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 12, 2016, with the headline 'Betting on blended champagne'. Print Edition | Subscribe