Moët & Chandon opens its doors
Claude Moët founded his company in Epernay in 1743, obtaining a royal office as a wine broker, and then land and a cellar on the Faubourg de la Folie (now called the Avenue de Champagne). A little less than a century later, in 1833, his great-grandson Victor and the latter’s brother-in-law, Pierre-Gabriel Chandon, formed Moët & Chandon, which would go on to spread Champagne’s reputation all over the world, making it synonymous with luxury and the French “art of living.”
The Moët & Chandon estates are the most extensive in the region, covering over 1,150ha (2,840 acres). Of these, 50 percent are grands crus and a further 25 percent premiers crus. To date, since 1842 the house has released 69 vintage Champagnes, each made from the grapes of a single exceptional year, and each one unique in character.
With 17 miles (28km) of tunnels, carved out of chalk, Moët & Chandon also has the largest network of cellars in the entire Champagne region. This exceptional heritage, a tribute to the talent and hard work of its creators, provides a protected, undisturbed environment where the precious bottles can mature and improve for several years. As time passes, Moët & Chandon’s Champagnes develop the dynamic, well-rounded qualities that characterize their unique and distinctive style. Millions of bottles are stored down here, the oldest dating back more than 100 years.
Moët & Chandon opens the doors to a subterranean world and its mysteries, offering an opportunity to experience the extraordinary atmosphere of this historic site. Its visitors follow in the footsteps of Napoleon, as well as the many other historic figures who have visited over the centuries—including emperors Alexander I of Russia, and Francis II of Austria—not to mention the numerous celebrities who have since trodden these hallowed grounds. Perhaps one may catch a glimpse of their shadows in this seemingly endless labyrinth of tunnels.
Accompanied by a knowledgeable guide, visitors will explore the Galerie Impériale, a reference to the friendship between Jean-Rémy Moët, the founder’s grandson, and “Napoleon the Great, Emperor of France.” They will see how Moët & Chandon Champagne is made, and learn about the enologists’ expertise and the legacy that has been enriched and passed down through generations of cellar masters. The tour ends with a tasting hosted by expert sommeliers and an opportunity to browse the shop, which, in addition to the gamut of Moët & Chandon Champagnes, offers a range of wine-related objects and accessories.
The cellar visits are accessible for people with reduced mobility and are available in several languages, but reservations are highly recommended, especially in peak season. Visits take place each weekday from February to late March, and then daily until mid-November. The cellars are closed throughout January. Bespoke tours and tastings are also available. Being 30–98ft (10–30m) underground, the cellars are always cool, so warm clothing is advisable.
For those who would like to continue their visit in style, Moët & Chandon offers the option to enjoy either lunch or dinner on the Avenue de Champagne in Epernay. The 19th-century Orangerie and its French garden can accommodate between 18 and 80 guests, and the vaulted Caveau Napoleon in the cellars from 18 to 150.
Please drink responsibly.