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Bubbles on the rocks

How French Vintners got over themselves and invented 'Ice Champagne'

The Veuve Clicquot Rich Collection. Courtesy Maison Veuve Clicquot
The Veuve Clicquot Rich Collection. Courtesy Maison Veuve Clicquot

The relentless conquest of champagne continues and entrepreneurs now open bars and restaurants configured solely to sell it. No wonder sales continue to hit records and champagne houses are right there meeting demand with such new, unexpected offshoots as LVMH’s Moët Ice Imperial. Ice Imperial’s first trial came in 2011 with the promise that it would offer a “unique and thirst-quenching taste" that blended three distinctive flavours—fruit intensity, richness and freshness—and should be served in an unexpected way: a large wine glass, over ice. Champagne snobs scoffed at such heretical drinking and everyone else guzzled it up. In fact, this new kind of fizz, expressly designed to be drunk on the rocks, has become a new category of champagne.

Moët Ice Imperial proved so successful that it hasn’t just spawned its own offshoot—a rosé version, released in 2016—but also a slew of me-toos from other marques. Pommery claimed that drinkers of its new, ice-friendly Royal Blue Sky would be “quickly hypnotized by this wine, that you want to discover as soon as possible". Veuve Clicquot, a sister brand of Moët under the LVMH umbrella, went even farther, suggesting its “rich" offshoot be served over ice, in cocktails, or swirled with a chunk of pineapple, some cucumber, or even a squirt of tea. It wasn’t just the champagne houses eyeing a share of this sparkling market either. There are now around a dozen ice-friendly, new blends from French winemakers, such as Bordeaux-based JP Chenet and Jura-based François Montand, which have been using méthode champenoise since its namesake winemaker fled there during World War II.

Much as marketers might suggest that the idea of icing champagne is outré or unexpected, it’s a long-time habit in France, especially in the south, according to champagne expert Caroline Brun, who works with such brands as Bollinger.

Much as marketers might suggest that the idea of icing champagne is outré or unexpected.

“In St Tropez, people have been drinking champagne (this way) since the 1960s. It’s a fresher way to drink champagne," she said. Indeed, ice champagne’s implicit association with the yacht- and model-heavy life of a mogul in St Tropez has earned it the nickname “Disco Champagne". Quaffing it this way implicitly transports the drinker poolside, somewhere with jet-set je ne sais quoi; no wonder serving champagne in a goblet with a few ice cubes is known in France as à la piscine, or “swimming pool style."

Iced champagne makers are pricing it at a premium: Expect to pay around $10 (around Rs640) more for the Ice version than Imperial’s standard edition; Veuve Clicquot Rich is also pricier than the company’s ubiquitous Brut. Certainly, the market is fizzing.

While some wine experts are predicting that this is a gimmicky and short-lived trend. I guess we just need to wait, watch and keep our eyes out for what Gigi’s drinking at Coachella 2018. Bloomberg

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