Summer calls for a go-to drink—preferably something fresh and fizzy and distinctly fun. The mojito has had its day in the sun; the Aperol spritz is so last year—it’s time for something new. Enter champagne on the rocks.
Some may balk at the idea of ice cubes in champagne. After all, it goes against centuries of tradition—a sacrilege to even include the two in the same sentence. But one winemaker has turned disdain into delight with the creation of Moët Ice Impérial. Though launched in 2011, it seems the concept behind the libation is only catching on now.
“Most of champagne is sold at the end of the year,” says Benoît Gouez, chef de cave for Moët & Chandon. “Sales were not doing that well in the summer. I came to the conclusion that champagne was perceived to be too formal for the summer. Not casual enough. Too strict, too many rules.”
Champagne drinkers in the south of France have long been adding ice cubes to their champagne while they soaked up the sun in the Côte d’Azur. Inspired by this, Gouez conceived Ice Impérial specifically designed to be served over ice. “Instead of ‘no way, don’t do that,’” says the winemaker of the “crime” of adding ice to champagne, “I tried to develop a champagne that could be the best possible taste for that way of consuming champagne.”
There is no specific wine technique with Ice Impérial. Rather, it is a certain profile of the base wines: pinot noir, pinot meunier, and chardonnay. “We found that by adding ice in champagne, basically the effect was that the champagne was diluted and the temperature was lowered and the balance of the champagne was broken,” explains Gouez. “If you want to finish with a champagne that is balanced, you have to start with a champagne that is unbalanced—but by excess.”
In essence, Moët Ice Impérial is unbalanced champagne meant to be poured into a generous glass and then topped off with a few large ice cubes (not crushed ice). When you taste it neat, “it’s not good,” avows Gouez. “It’s too intense, too sweet, too acidic, too bitter, too extreme. Intentionally. Because once you add the ice—the ice is important—you lower the intensity, you lower the sweetness, you lower the acidity and Ice Impérial comes in place.” Recently, Ice Impérial Rosé has joined the Moët Ice range with a lower dosage as “the colour pink suggests fruitiness and your brain interprets sweetness,” says Gouez.
Ice Impérial appeals to a younger consumer that is attracted by the chic of champagne and now enjoys the more casual approach; though the price point of Ice Impérial is not any more casual than classic champagne. “Every innovation has its premium,” notes Gouez.
Whether young in years or in spirit, it won’t be long before you become one of the converted.
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