Is there a more celebratory drink than champagne? It’s almost a given to see it pop up at weddings, award ceremonies, launches, winner’s podiums, the midnight chime on New Year’s Eve… I suppose, you can toast with prosecco, cava, and franciacorta, but—let’s admit it—it’s not the same. Champagne is only champagne if it’s from its namesake of France, and no other sparklers embody “the good life” quite like the French bubbly.
If there’s a house that made champagne “the wine of kings and the king of wines”, it’s Moët & Chandon. This light and fizzy river of happiness flows from one of the oldest houses in Champagne and has touched the lips of European royalty, aristocrats, Hollywood stars, influencers, you name it. For something so delightfully drinkable, it’s easy to forget the work that goes into a bottle of Moët—and in particular, a Moët Impérial, which has been around for 150 years. And besides, it’s a party drink—essential, but generally not something we obsess about.
But there is a good reason to pay attention to the sparkly contents of each bottle. Because champagne, like wines, are shockingly dependent on Mother Nature. Any shift in climate, weather patterns and landscape pose challenges to producers. Yet, despite having limited control over the quality and quantity of grapes at each harvest, Moët Impérial has, for a century and a half, been incredibly consistent, thanks to the Maison’s savoir-faire in champagne-making.
The composition of the Moët Impérial blend is always two-thirds of Pinot Noir and Meunier, and a lesser third of Chardonnay. To maintain the same “bright fruitiness” of each bottle (may I also remind you that the grapes that come out of each harvest are never exactly the same in aroma or ripeness), the House’s oenologists tweak the percentages in the recipe every time. In other words, each blend is as unique from another. And the process can take up to several weeks of tasting, adapting and adjusting some 800 different wines produced from the year’s harvest and reserves.
Great wines are born from exceptional grapes. Moët & Chandon can’t control the weather, but considering the size and diversity of its terroir, the odds are pretty much in its favour. Champagne, a two-hour drive east of Paris, boasts an optimal terroir of chalky limestone soil, high altitude and cool temperatures ideal for producing highly-acidic grapes needed to make the French bubbly. Out of the 34,000 hectares of vines in Champagne, the House’s vineyards cover 1,200 hectares, making it the largest vineyard owner in the region. It also supplements its own harvest with the local grape growers: some 234 of the 319 wine-producing villages supply grape juice to the House.
Once the proper concoction is achieved, winemakers begin the process of the second fermentation (FYI, the first turns PG-13 grape juice to alcohol before the blending happens) known as prise de mousse. Sugars and natural yeasts (Moët’s own) are added into the champagne bottles using a complex method dictated by Champenois heritage called méthode champenoise, which transform the wines from still into fizzy. The bottles are sealed, placed on wooden racks and stored in chalk cellars where they will remain in darkness at a cool constant temperature of 9 to 12 degrees Celsius. The bottles are laid on their sides to age for two years.
As the maturation period nears its end, the bottles go through the “remuage” (or “riddling”) process, where they are gradually tilted, neck-down, and rotated in small increments clock-wise and anti-clockwise to loosen the sediment thrown off by the second fermentation. With the lees (residual yeast) accumulated and collected in the bottles’ neck, they’re inserted headfirst into a liquid nitrogen bath to freeze the dead yeast. The disgorgement comes next. This is where the popping of the bottle cap ejects all the frozen, unwanted stuff under the force of pressure within the bottle to leave a clear sparkling wine in its wake. Finally, before the Moët Impérial becomes a Moët Impérial, a “dosage” of wine and liquid sugar is thrown in to make up for the stress of disgorgement. One last adjustment, if you may.
Yes, champagne is a party drink we’re so used to drinking without much afterthought. But Moët & Chandon is more than that. If you want to get wasted? There are your hard liquor options. But for life’s special moments? Leave that for Moët Impérial.