In September 2012 a handful of journalists from France, Germany, UK, South America and Australia were invited to a very special champagne and food alchemy lunch at the historic Orangerie venue at Moet’s Epernay HQ, in order to witness some of the world’s best chefs and sommeliers collaborate in a light hearted fun champagne trade version of Master Chef.
Each award-winning chef and sommelier dynamic duo was allocated their own group of 4 journalist ‘kitchen assistants’ as many fumbling hands made (sort of) light work helping each chef prepare their own special dish to match the soon to be launched Moet Grand Vintage 2004. Having initially abandoned my own award-winning Paris-London team (featuring Luke Raymond from Gordon Ramsay/Thierry Poussier from Le Notre) to their prep, in my enthusiasm to film a bit of live action around the room, I then got the lovely job of peeling all the langoustines (which was exhausting) and just had to sit down for two minutes to recharge my batteries with a flute of Grand Vintage 2004. This latest vintage release from Moet has great palate structure with nice herbal and citrus notes. Its crisp and drinking beautifully right now but also promises great aging potential.
Lucky for me at that precise moment in these epicurean proceedings, Moet Chef de Caves Benoit Gouez and special celebrity guest Carole Bouquet wafted by and sat down directly opposite me, which suddenly meant I got to try all the yummy dishes with them from a birds eye position just like a Master Chef judge!
Although each chef was reserved about revealing his recipe secrets to the press, Benoit happily chatted with every chef/sommelier team privately about the individual merits of their dish matched with Moet 04. What a riot to bring all these different characters together in one room, and what an extraordinary once in a lifetime champagne luncheon experience not soon to be forgotten by any of the lucky participants.
Chefs on stage included
– Wojciech Amaro, Poland
– Henri Fauchereau, Switzerland
– Christoph Ruffer, Germany
– Benjamin Bayly, New Zealand
– Hideaki Matsuo, Japan
– Jeremy Biasiol, HongKong
– Guillaume Gaillot, Macao
– Clare Smith, UK
– Philippe Mille, France
– Daniel Ovadia, Mexique
– Luke Rayment, UK
– Andrey Makhov, Russie
In order to walk off all that delicious food and champagne at lunch, our merry gang hopped on a coach to go do an afternoon turn as vendangeurs in Moet’s Ay vineyards, where we all set to picking grand cru pinot noir grapes before tasting more champagne from magnums in the middle of the vines. I half expected an invisible orchestra to start playing in the background at any moment!
Finally later that evening all the poor hard-working chefs and sommeliers also got to kick back with Moet’s international media guests during an amazing aged vintages dinner worthy of Aladdin’s Cave, hosted at historic Fort Chabrol (Champagne’s first viticultural school founded by the Moet family in 1899 to help the whole region combat the devastating effects of phylloxera). This impressive building is now a museum, rarely opened for private functions for special guests. Very James Bond indeed.
When you’re the world’s largest champagne producer and its most famous brand by a country mile, it can’t be easy to get the media excited per se about your latest vintage release to market. However Moet’s priceless ‘behind the scenes’ interactive cooking class experience which combined the talents of the world’s best chefs and sommeliers, blended with an almost private audience with a celebrity (in this case the Bond girl from “For Your Eyes Only” French actress Carole Bouquet), topped by lashings of living Champagne history including eclectic aged wines on tasting, must rank high on any hack’s #foodie dance card. Moet 2004 certainly said it in style and what I discovered on this latest trip to Champagne is that I’m a big fan of champagnes from the 1970s. Quelle surprise (not!)