Tuesday, 12 October 2010

The glory that was Moussec

Some pre-1980 Chateau Moussec

I had the clan round to Schloss Hartley last Christmas and my father-in-law arrived with a few festive bottles that had been cluttering his shelves (he is not a great wine drinker). One was this curio here.

I vaguely remember Moussec, though younger readers could be forgiven for never having heard of it. As the label says, it was British sparkling wine: the word “British” is important here, denoting that the wine was made in this country but from imported grapes (“English” wine, on the other hand, is all home grown). As in the horror that is British sherry.

If the styling of the label weren’t enough to date it, I was intrigued to see that the alcoholic strength is given in degrees proof. This practice was replaced by the Euro standard of percentage alcohol by volume (ABV) in 1980, which I assume makes this bottle at least 30 years old.

It is surprising how little one can glean about this brand from a cursory online search. In 1932 the company moved into premises in Rickmansworth, though my bottle seems to have been made in Norwich.The latest reference I can find is to a TV advert (a mock- French couple are drinking it, with the slogan “Great leetle wines”) in 1980. Most references are to bottles, glasses or beermats for sale on eBay as vintage curios.

One assumes the idea is that by making the drink on these shores you avoid import duty, enabling you to make something with the glamour of bubbly but not the price tag. Perhaps as winemaking became more sophisticated around the world, it got easier for good quality, low-price fizz to be made in the countries where the grapes were grown, rendering Moussec’s ruse economically less viable. But if anyone out there knows anything about the brand’s fate, I’d be curious to hear.

I did find this strange story online: “During the war my mother worked shifts at the Moussec Champagne and Wine Company at Rickmansworth, but she never wanted to tell me how she had got on at work. At the front of the factory there was a huge glass window and I used to watch them filling the bottles and putting in the corks. I always thought it was a strange thing.We were in the middle of a war—who could possibly want all this wine and champagne! A few years after the war I was talking to a man who used to work there and I put my puzzling questions to him. He gave me a knowing smile and told me the town's secret. There was never any wine there at all! It was a facade. The people I could see came in everyday and filled bottles with water. The night shift emptied them again ready for the day shift to start all over again. Behind this facade was a tank factory! Every day tanks were made there and shipped out in the dead of the night. My mother had never said a word.”

I think it safe to assume the man was pulling her leg. But perhaps the subtext is: why would anyone make British sparkling wine?*

(UPDATE: For more on the Moussec story see this post.)

*Of course nowadays you can get some excellent English sparkling wine, such as Nyetimber which has won awards and everything. Although it is made by an American.


One of Moussec's gimmicks was the single-serving bottle. Not sure what message they are trying to send.

15 comments:

  1. i loved moussec what lovely memories it brings back to me just saying the word moussec makes me tingle wish i could still buy it!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have actually found a WW2 era one on Ebay !!!

      If interested, it is Ebay number: 270966487259

      Cheers, Mark !

      Delete
  2. My father was Sales Service Manager for Moussec.

    ReplyDelete
  3. moussec is the most tasteful alcoholic drink I ever taste in my life sir!

    ReplyDelete
  4. I have actually found a WW2 era one on Ebay !!!

    If interested, it is Ebay number: 270966487259

    Cheers, Mark !

    ReplyDelete
  5. I'm 70 now, but I always remember when my favourite barmaid would accept a drink from me and it was *always* brandy and moussec! And dear Olive would always claim, as she took her first sip: "I cover the waterfront!" It cost a lot but made a young man happy.

    In very much later years I came across this lady again and asked what would be the modern equivalent? "A brandy and Babycham, I suppose," she told me, "though I doubt you will even now find Babycham!"

    I really enjoyed being young and alcoholically innocent. Not like nowadays ....

    ReplyDelete
  6. In the late 60s I was fairly young and new to alchohol and I tried babycham which I found drinkable but too sweet, then someone suggested I tried Moussec as they did a dry one. This became 'my' drink and I felt very grown up in pubs when I asked for a 'dry Moussec'!
    I'm now 62 and still drink anything white and bubbly!

    ReplyDelete
  7. Like Henry's barmaid I used to love Moussec with a brandy. It was a sophisticated drink and I was only a young and innocent 21 year old. When Moussec became I available I switched to Babycham and nowadays I have it with soda, but nothing can compare with brandy and Moussec.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. i worked in the green m
      an in Edgware in the 70's and use to drink bottled guinness and moussec fantastic

      Delete
  8. alan and diane12 June 2013 at 01:45

    Alan and Diane 12 june 2013

    We have an old beermat advertising a competition called "Desert Island Competition" with a great prize of 500.00 pounds. Trouble is the close date is 31/12/1977. Does anyone think Moussec will honour it ??

    ReplyDelete
  9. Hi, I used to work at Moussec in Rickmansworth and have a very fine scar from when a bottle exploded while I was packing! I've been trying to find pictures of Rickmansworth in the 60's, anyone have any of the end of the high street where Marks and Spencers is, that's where I used to live and I haven't got a single picture of the house or anything, have searched high and low on the internet with no luck!!

    best wishes
    Sandie

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hi I worked at Moussec in the 60's . Worked in the offices. I remember lovely chap there called Mr Crossley

      Delete
  10. I used to love moussec, 62 now but takes me right back to my 20s, wish they still made it!!

    ReplyDelete
  11. My mum worked at Moussec when I was little, around 1953. I then worked their as Telephonist/Receptionist when I was 16. I loved it. My Grandparents owned JONES TAXI service in Rickmansworth at that time. Lovely memories

    ReplyDelete
  12. My favourite alcoholic drink when I was in my 20's! I actually came across it again in a pub in Bakewell, Derbyshire around 15 years ago. The publican was trying to get rid of the last few bottles and gave them to me for free - I had a lovely night from what I can remember! This was the perfect drink - light, dry and sparkling.

    ReplyDelete