Ask most people how many grape varieties grow in Champagne and the knee-jerk response is likely to be three: pinot noir, chardonnay and meunier. There are, however, several more to be found, even if only in miniscule quantities.
One of the houses still growing some of the old, obscure varieties is Moutard-Diligent, located in the village of Buxeuil in the Aube. (Moutard Père & Fils is the main label under which they sell their champagne.) While they do make perfectly traditional champagnes, they’ve gained particular notoriety for two unusual wines: a champagne made entirely from old vines of arbanne, a white grape that produces rich, honeyed flavors (unusually, Moutard spells it “arbane”); and the Cuvée des 6 Cépages, which blends arbanne, petit meslier and pinot blanc with the three more familiar grapes of Champagne.
The Cuvée des 6 Cépages is vintage-dated, and the current release is the 2002. Aged on its lees for four years, it’s full in body but not weighty, supported by a fine streak of acidity. It’s unusually pungent in fragrance on both the nose and the palate, and while its texture and body make it feel obviously champenois, the array of flavors is anything but classic, ranging from exotic citrus and beeswax to apple jelly and quince marmalade. It’s delicious and quirky, offering a completely different perspective on the idea of champagne. Moutard Père & Fils is imported into the United States by Polaner Selections, Mount Kisco, NY, and the suggested retail price for the Cuvée des 6 Cépages is $56.