Gouez has been Moët ’s cellar master since 2005. PICTURE: Nqobile Mbonambi/ANA
Sparkling wine is so popular, that people argue on social media on what qualifies as champagne (besides the French brands) and why this brand is better than the other brand. 
I guess it’s why Moët & Chandon's cellar master,  Benoît Gouez,is in South Africa right now, not only promoting the brand’s Grand Vintage 2009 and their award winning cuvee, the MCIII NV (which was name the best champagne of 2017 by FINE Champagne) but also trying to learn more about our country’s love for champagne. 
Gouez has been Moët ’s cellar master since 2005. An award winning winemaker, I met with him at Umhlanga’s Oyster Box Hotel, where we spoke about the popularity of champagne, what food to pair it with and more.

Bubbly has gone from being a celebratory drink, to a daily must have, as popular as wine. Has that led to the increased popularity of champagne?
The things is that it's a great wine a special wine, but its a wine. Once people realise that, they will see that it's also great for enjoying with food. It's not just to party or celebrate- it's a super aperitif, and helps to prepare your palate before a new course. I've seen in South Africa over the past week how there's more to our champagne and the vintages we have and how different they are. Every champagne is unique. Something I've started to see in South Africa, really interested in the vintage very positively surprised in the interest- beyond just taste, but people want to know more. 

How best do you pair champagne with food? 
Each champagne in our range has its own profile and therefore has particular styles of foods it can be best paired with. I always believe tat if we speak of Brut champagne (low in sugar) they have more acidity, some bitterness, a little bit of sweetness and a bit of umami. The only primary sense that champagne doesn't have is saltiness, so I always believe that saltiness is the key to pairing food with champagne. If you look at oysters, caviare, salty cheese, those are the foods that go well with champagne. 
Our Grand Vintage 2009, which has an accomplished maturity, and delicate richness, that  it needs to go with food like sea bass, poultry- more savoury food served with a creamy sauce. You can really enjoy our 2009 vintage like you would a great white wine.  
Our Nectar Imperial calls for richness- goes well with desserts and rich and spicy foods. Very nice and clean acidity, that moderates the spiciness. 
Do you know which vintage is the best selling in the sub-Saharan Africa region?
Our Brut and Nectar Imperials are equally successful. Just behind are the Rose and the Ice Imperial. Our vintage are still gaining a bit more traction- not necessarily for the connoisseur, but it is for person who will enjoy the process of making it. champagne that asks for some education for it to be understood. 
 
When was the first time you had champagne and what was your reaction?
I don't remember. (Laughs) You see in France, champagne and wine is part of the culture. We tend to educate our children for them to get used to it, to integrate drinking responsibly. It's part of our culture. My son, now 16, when he was a day old, I gave him a drop of champagne. He has his own small glass for him to taste the champagne. 
The Ice Imperial has been a popular one in the past few years, but it’s also very rare. Are there more quantities being planned for the summer?
We've only had it for six years and we really want tot develop it in the proper way. It's a summer drink to be enjoyed outside. We produce more every year, we have had to. But it;s not easy, we need special kinds of grapes- a certain pinot noir and a special chardonnay to give the ice Imperial it's unique taste.