Champagne house producing the single most important champagne brand in the world, and part of the vast LVMH group. The Champagne house was founded by Claude Moët, born in 1683 to a family which had settled in the Champagne district during the 14th century. He inherited vineyards and became a wine merchant, establishing his own firm in 1743. He was succeeded by his son Claude-Louis Nicolas and his grandson Jean-Rémy Moët, who used his impressive connections to open up international markets for his wine. Jean-Rémy was a close personal friend of Napoleon Bonaparte, and was awarded the cross of the Légion d'Honneur in the final years of the emperor's rule. In 1832, Jean-Rémy handed over the firm to his son Victor and his son-in-law Pierre-Gabriel Chandon. At the same time, the company acquired the Abbey of Hautvillers and its vineyards. In 1962, Moët & Chandon's shares were quoted for the first time on the Paris Stock Exchange, leading to a period of considerable expansion. First, Moët bought shares in Ruinart Père et Fils, the oldest Champagne house, in 1963. Five years later, it acquired a 34 per cent stake in Parfums Christian Dior, increasing this to a 50 per cent stake shortly afterwards. In 1970, Moët took control of Champagne Mercier, a popular brand in France, and capped it all by buying out Dior and merging with Hennessy in 1971 to form the holding company Moët Hennessy. The acquisitions continued unabated, including, in 1981, a stake in the American importers Schieffelin, which incorporated a 49 per cent share in H. Sichel Söhne in Germany, producers of Blue Nun, until the Sichel family bought it back in 1992. At one stage this American investment also involved the Simi winery in Sonoma, Moët having established Domaine Chandon, a seminal sparkling California wine-making establishment in the Napa Valley, in 1973.
This was by no means the company's first venture into the New World. Bodegas Chandon was established in Argentina in 1960, and Provifin, now Chandon do Brasil, followed in 1974, both companies making considerable amounts of wine for the domestic market, much of it sparkling. In Germany, too, a sekt business had been established in the form of Chandon GmbH in 1968. In 1985, the group founded Domaine Chandon, Australia, to make a premium sparkling wine sold as Domaine Chandon in Australia and Green Point in the UK, and in 1987 established a company in Spain for the production of a cava although the winery and vineyard associated with Masía Chandon were subsequently sold to Freixenet.
In 1987, Moët Hennessy merged with the Louis Vuitton Group, makers of luxury leather goods and then owners of Champagne houses Veuve Clicquot, Canard-Duchêne, and Henriot, and Givenchy perfumes. The LVMH group's composition continues to evolve but in 2005 it owned five Champagne houses: Moët & Chandon, Mercier, Ruinart, Veuve Clicquot, and Krug (having once also owned Pommery, and Lanson briefly while stripping it of its extensive vineyard holdings before selling it on). Of these, Moët & Chandon and Mercier are run most closely in tandem.
Moët, the brand, continues to sell at over twice the rate of its nearest competitors and claims that one in four bottles of Champagne exported comes from the house. It is the leading brand of champagne in most world markets with a share of the champagne market in the United States that can be as high as 50 per cent.
The house prestige cuvée is named after Dom Pérignon, the legendary figure of the Abbey of Hautvillers, and broke new ground in terms of packaging, pricing, and qualitative ambitions when it was launched in 1928.