There’s no better way to get into the spirit of the holidays than by drinking large amounts of Champagne, so I was delighted recently to be invited to a dinner featuring the entire range of Moët et Chandon. The wines were paired with an ambitious menu devised by chef Blake Malatesta, with champagnes served included Brut Imperial ($48), Brut Imperial Rosé ($58), Nectar Imperial ($50), Nectar Imperial Rosé ($70) and the controversial Moët Ice ($60).
Moët Ice is the first Champagne designed to be consumed on the rocks. Although it was launched slightly over a year ago, it remains largely unknown to the public, primarily because Moët has limited the number of retail stores and restaurants allowed to sell it. The blend is the same as Nectar Imperial: 40-50% Pinot Noir, 30-40% Pinot Meunier, and 10-20% Chardonnay. The dosage, or sweetness level, is similar as well—a hefty 45 grams of sugar per liter. It appears to be less aggressively carbonated than the rest of the range. On the night of the dinner, it was served as a Bellini with a strong infusion of lemon juice.
The most interesting aspect of the evening was that three of the five Champagnes served were Demi-Sec, containing the previously mentioned sweetness of 45g/l, or roughly three times the amount that an average American consumer would find acceptable in a still wine. Sweet Champagne appears to be coming back, as Demi-Sec is now made by Clicquot, Pol Roger, Lanson, Roederer, Piper-Heidsieck and Laurent-Perrier in addition to Moët; several decades ago, it would have been hard to find. Of course, 45g/l is historically insignificant: At the court of the Russian Czars, Champagne was typically consumed with sugar levels of 250-300 grams per liter.
At the Brut level, Moët has gone in the other direction, scaling the sweetness back to a mere 9g/l from an allowable maximum of 12 g/l. My favorite of the evening was the Brut Imperial Rosé. Fragrant aromas of red fruits perfumed the nose; it was lean and focused on entry, with flavors of strawberries and red currants. It had a substantial palate imprint, angular and slightly tannic, with a good acid structure and a long finish.
Mark Spivak is the author of Iconic Spirits: An Intoxicating History, published by Lyons Press (Globe Pequot); for more information, go to iconicspirits.net.