Saturday 5 January 2013

Champagne Moutard (Arbane)

What are the Champagne grapes? Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Ha! Slotovino could have told you there are others; Petit Meslier and Pinot Blanc. Not a lot of people know that!

But before we go on our smug way, what's this? Arbane? We didn't believe it. There we were at 'Le repaire de Bacchus' in the Rue de Bretagne, Paris asking our usual question whether they had anything out of the ordinary and Hey Presto, Hoopla - there was a bottle of Champagne Moutard Cuvee Arbane, only E.50.

Not trusting this intelligence and unwilling to part with 50 big ones for any bottle of Champagne, we took a rain check but something told us to look Arbane up on our data roaming and Sapristi! there it was. An ancient variety (first mentioned in 1388) with only a hectare left. This was for us!

The nice and by now immensely erudite people from Repaire de Bacchus kindly put the bottle in a beautiful and informative presentation box at no extra cost and we were on our way.

Back home we produced this bottle at a pre-Christmas gathering and its success couldn't have been greater.


We were so encouraged with our new capacity to win friends and influence people that we scoured Winesearcher for the best stockist of Moutard Champagnes in the UK, Great Wines Direct - and bought up as many of their other lines as possible - Cuvee Arbane being predictably unavailable here - to offer over the holidays and give as gifts.

These were mostly excellent and always interesting. Moutard Diligent of Buxeuil is an old family concern (founded in the 17th century) producing every sort of Champagne and Cremant. It is now (firmly) our favourite Champagne house.

You will search in vain for mention of Arbane either on its own or as a permitted Champagne variety in the Oxford Companion to Wine but this is rectified in 'Wine Grapes' where we also learn there is a 7th grape permitted in Champagne: Fromenteau. Fromenteau, Fromenteau Gris even? Don't get too excited. This is just the Champagnois name for Pinot Gris. So Champagne has Seven permitted varieties. Please note for Pub Quizzes, University Challenge etc.