Somewhere, in the recent evolution of adjectives, “disruptive” became a good thing, not a bad thing. And applied to the world of beverages, it could be argued that Brent Hocking has out-disrupted almost anyone.
Most know Hocking from the innovative spirits he has created—DeLeón Tequila, in 2009, and Virginia Black Decadent American Whiskey (in partnership with artist-performer Drake), in 2016. And those brands earned him a great deal of industry praise, not the least of which was “Spirit of the Year” award from this magazine for three years running.
Hocking’s and Drake’s newest sip is far from tequila or American whiskey territory, quite literally. They are releasing two Champagnes under the Mod Sélection label—a reserve and a rosé—with more in the works. When asked what makes sense about producing Champagne for someone with such a track record in spirits, Hocking minces no words: “If you know anything about me, you know my background (and passion) has always been in wine. I started aging DeLeón Tequila in Sauternes wine barrels … 10 years before anyone else in the market caught on. Barrel aging and flavor profile have always been paramount to me … and Champagne is a natural progression. What we’re doing with this Champagne is nothing short of revolutionary and very much in line with what I’ve done in the tequila and American whiskey space.”
Hocking’s “revolutionary” vision extends to the profile of these new Champagnes, as well as to the design of the glass they’re housed in. Having acquired a five-generations-old Champagne house in the Vallée de la Marne, Hocking has worked with the family on the ground toward a style he describes as “pure, elegant, balanced, and fresh.” These Pinot Meunier–heavy bubblies are light on their feet, missing the weighty, yeasty, autolytic character often associated with Champagne. The Mod Réserve Champagne ($300) is delicate, with an ocean breeze aroma mixed with white blossoms and the barest hint of toasted nuts; pear and red apple skin flavors are offered up with elegant tension and minerality. The bubbles in the Mod Rosé Champagne ($400)—made with the saignée method—are impossibly vibrant. Delicate wild strawberry aromas lead to lively cherry and cranberry notes—intense but fresh and light-footed at once.
As you might expect from a Hocking brand, the Mod Sélection bottle design is, well, like nothing you’ve seen before. With exquisite, detailed craftsmanship, filigreed metallic etchings push the limits; in fact, no two bottles are alike. “It was important for me to be respectful of history, heritage, and tradition,” says Hocking, “but at the same time, modernize our approach—make the product shine and stand out for the beauty and elegance that is inside. I view every bottle of our Champagne like a modern work of art.”
There are more Mod Sélection Champagnes in the works, including a Vintage Rosé de Saignée, a Grand Cru, a Blanc de Blancs, a Vintage Blanc de Blancs, and a Single Vineyard Estate-Grown Tête de Cuvée. Look for evidence of wood in these wines. As Hocking says, “Barrel aging has always been a signature of mine—it’s only fitting that it be the same in Champagne.”
If the first two releases tell the story right, Mod Sélection does seem to be challenging the traditional Champagne identity, in a rather exquisite way.