Published June 7, 2011
There is a cultural misconception that Americans don’t really appreciate Champagne—the ultimate example of gauche behavior has been an occasional predilection for throwing ice cubes into a glass to destroy the careful balance of the spirit. It turns out, though, that America’s bad drinking habit was actually predicting a revolution in imbibition. This summer, the consecrated, two-and-a-half-century old French house MoeÌ?t & Chandon is introducing a Champagne that is expressly meant to be served over ice. MoeÌ?t Ice ImpeÌrial is the result of intense laboratory experimentation to create a Champagne whose flavors and notes are designed to withstand dilution when ice melts. But before purists take a crowbar to their ice trays, it is important to emphasize that most Champagne should still be served as is—in fact, Ice ImpeÌrial is reportedly the only Champagne ever invented meant to share a glass with cubes. The man behind the creation is MoeÌ?t’s chef de cave, BenoiÌ?t Gouez, a master of grapes who lives on MoeÌ?t’s winery in Champagne, spends about one and a half hours every work day tasting wines, and even discusses his abilities at tasting very similarly to an athlete: as a result of dedication and daily training.
Gouez doesn’t see this new product as going against tradition. “If you look at the history of MoeÌ?t & Chandon, it has always had the same values, but it can be interpreted in different ways at different times,” he says. Furthermore, instead of sticking his nose up when he first noticed drinkers asking for ice in their Champagnes in places like Saint-Tropez and Madrid, he realized that there was a product missing from the market. “If people are looking for it, it means they are asking for something that we don’t deliver.” Ultimately, MoeÌ?t Ice provides the antidote to Champagne’s reputation as a celebratory drink consumed only at night on special occasions, mostly at award ceremonies, or on the last days of December. Now, it can be drunk during the day, in the heat of July and August, around the pool or over the barbeque. In other words, MoeÌ?t is jockeying to become the preferred cooler filler right next to Budweiser. That may be a surprising reinvention for such a revered brand, but Gouez understands that some things in the wine world never change: “Usually you don’t drink wine on your own. You share it with your friends. That is very important to me.”