Moet & Chandon's youngest winemaker
comes to town to spread some effervescent news.
He believes that he has one of the
best jobs in the world - and there are not many who
would argue. While much of France is still sleeping,
Vincent Chaperon, Moët & Chandon's youngest
winemaker starts his day at 7am - tasting fine champagnes
and meticulously evaluating whether or not they meet
Meanwhile, he also travels to exotic destinations to
spread the champagne gospel - not a common job requirement
for winemakers of yesteryear. One of his most recent
visits to Asia included Singapore, to launch the Moët
& Chandon Vintage 1996 and Vintage Rose 1996.
During a champagne breakfast (of course) at Shangri-la's
Blu, Chaperon keenly introduced the 1996 Vintage as
"Moët's new baby", noting that it had
been aged for five years instead of the usual three.
He pointed out that the warm summer concentrated the
fruit - resulting in champagne that is rich and fresh.
"The full-bodied Vintage Rose 1996 has a salmon
colour and the aroma of candied cherry, strawberry,
blood orange, cinnamon, spices, cashew nuts and a touch
of smokiness," he succinctly described.
only 26 years old, Chaperon is not only au fait with
champagne tasting notes; he is also armed with abounding
savoir-faire. He readily shares his views on the marriage
of food and champagne, as well as intently listens to
the opinions of others. He also strongly believes that
wine appreciation is subjective and that one shouldn't
feel intimidated to share his or her perspective(s).
Born and bred in Bordeaux, life for Chaperon has always
revolved around the vinous world. "My grandfather
used to work in a winery in Pomerol. So I've always
been surrounded by wines since I was young," said
Chaperon, whose decision to be a winemaker arose seven
years ago. Equipped with a Viticulture and Winemaking
Degree from the National College of Agronomy in Montpellier
in 1998, he headed for Chile to discover the New World.
After his South American stint, Chaperon worked in the
cellars of the famed Lafite Rothschild winery in Sauternes.
The chance of a lifetime landed on his lap in 1999;
to embark on career with one of the world's champagne
heavyweights. "Instead of military service, I had
the opportunity to work for Moët & Chandon
and was sent to Portugal to research on cork stoppers."
During his spell there, he carried out a technical,
financial and structural survey of the cork industry
in Europe, as well as acquired expertise in champagne
corks, which are essential to the preservation and development
of the wine. Since his return two years ago, Chaperon
has been based in Epernay.
Being a young winemaker who is encircled by the traditional
facets of the Old World, do people take him seriously?
"There are 11 winemakers in our winery and although
I'm the youngest, Moët & Chandon encourages
us to openly share our views. That's the richness of
Moet", he acknowledged. He humbly declared that
that age doesn't matter - he is still learning but also
hopes to offer fresh views to the industry.
Besides drinking sublime champagne all day long, what
is his work really like? "Every day in the cellar,
we taste a lot of base-wines that are about to be blended
as well as cuvees so that we know when's the best time
to release them. We present our range to different customers
from France and overseas. As I specialise in the stopping,
bottling and disgorging aspects, I also look into the
technical side. We are always trying to improve our
process and looking for new technology," he shared.
There are of course, essential lessons, including Moët
& Chandon's philosophy, to be learnt, when it comes
to making good champagne. "Firstly, blending is
the core of our process. The actual creation of champagne
is the blending (of base wines), and to reach the real
balance during that stage. The second interesting point
which still amazes me is the ageing."
He explained that the ageing process of champagnes
is akin to photo processing. "When you create the
blend, it's like a black-and-white negative, but with
ageing, the wine is going to reveal its "colour"
(character) just like the photo. "As the wine needs
time to reveal itself, it's almost like magic
like an act of anticipation," he enthused.
Chaperon's job scope unfurls beyond the cellars too.
His role entails communicating to people, younger ones
in particular, that champagne doesn't have to be a traditional
celebratory drink, but can be enjoyed at bars or paired
with meals. Although it's not revolutionary to pair
champagne with food, not many people are used to doing
so, even in France, where 80 percent of wine consumption
is during meals. "In Europe, we are beginning to
teach people to pair champagne with food. We have two
chefs in Epernay whom we work closely with to create
new recipes for Champagne and food pairing." These
recipes are then shared with restaurants which Moët
& Chandon works closely with, or introduced during
trade champagne-food-pairing events held at three Michelin-starred
When it comes to the delicate subject matter of pairing,
Chaperon believes that because Moët & Chandon
champagne is "very complete, elegant and well-balanced",
it can be married with any food. "With champagne,
you can match with dim sum or seafood - because of its
light texture and fresh taste."
In the meantime, Chaperon's future plans are still
anchored in the champagne world. He candidly admits:
"There are a lot of things to discover as it's
a very complex universe and difficult to understand.
So I need time to learn and will be in Champagne for
some more years." For a successful champagne house,
Moët & Chandon has certainly made a wise "investment"
in Chaperon (since his Portugal days). And thanks to
his employer, Chaperon is able to share his "global
champagne views" to the Old World and beyond. And,
to that, we raise our glasses and say "Santé!"