Champagne On Ice

Who says you can’t put ice in champagne? Not the French. Or more specifically, not several French champagne producers, who’ve introduced specially-formulated sparklers meant to be served on the rocks.

Adding ice to a glass of wine, typically rosé, is called a piscine (pool), popular in the south of France, where a few glaçons are added to wine to beat the heat. But it’s not always limited to rosé; when in Corsica, people were plopping cubes of ice in glasses of red wine. “It’s too hot…” one person told me, as ice bobbed on the surface of her glass. Champagne isn’t necessarily sacred either. The head of the most prestigious champagne house once told me, “It’s better to add a cube of ice to a glass of champagne, if it’s not served cold enough, than to drink warm champagne.” As someone who’s been served a glass of champagne at a less-than-ideal temperature, I have to agree.

When it comes to wine, things (or myths) get stuck in people’s heads; red wine with meat, white wine with fish, red wine with cheese, red wine with chocolate. It’s argued that there are no absolutes or rules when it comes to drinking wine. The only rule is to drink what you want. Adding a handful of ice cubes to a glass of La Tâche or Château Y’quem probably isn’t the best way to experience those wines, since they weren’t made to be enjoyed being diluted. But champagne makers are now making sparkling wines that are specifically made for that exact purpose: to be served on the rocks.

Ice doesn’t just chill a drink. It also dilutes it. Which is why most cocktails are shaken or stirred with ice. (Please avoid those whiskey stones. LIke slate plates, they should have disappeared with the Sky Mall catalog.) Whiskey and whisky tasters often add a little water to the glass, or ice, to dilute the alcohol, which they say allows one to appreciate the more subtle flavors of the whiskies, which the taste of the alcohol hides. When I was in Scotland, a little glass of cold water was served with glasses of Scotch, so we could decide if we wanted a little or not.

I’ve been intrigued by Ice Impérial for a while, a champagne meant to be served over ice, since a year or so ago when someone who works for Moet & Chandon told me about it. At the time it wasn’t readily available. So I let the idea simmer for a while, and when I saw it at La Grande Épicerie, I picked up a bottle for €44, thinking it was possibly a bit elusive. However a week later, I saw it in a local supermarché for €39, so I guess it’s gone mainstream.

I also noticed a few other brands on the shelves at the Grand Épicerie, like Veuve Clicquot, who chimed in with Rich. Similar to the bottle of Moet & Chandon Ice Impérial I bought, it says on the label of Rich that it’s not just for pouring over ice, but also can be used as a mixer. The idea is the same as bottles that a number of French spirit producers are making, such as cognacs, Armagnacs, and even Sauternes, that are specifically designed to be shaken and stirred with ice, for cocktails.

Pommery also chimed in with their version called Royal Blue Sky, and Veuve Clicquot and Moet & Chandon also make rosé versions of their “ice” champagnes. Spanish cava Freixenet has a more budget-, and ice-friendly, bubbly, too.

So how was it?

Romain wasn’t sure what to make of it, but he’s open to trying new things (that’s how he discovered rye-dill Triscuits), and we took a few sips with, and without, ice, as it was meant to be enjoyed.

It was clear that due to the higher dosage (sugar), and grape blends, that this champagne is definitely better served on ice. The flavor is much more dynamic, it’s a little sweeter, and lacks the subtleties of traditional champagne. On its own, it’s rich. (As these champagnes are meant to be.) But a little too rich on its own.

I didn’t mind drinking this, although as we continued drinking the bottle, things got a little one-note. I missed the nuances you taste in champagne, and I think in the future, I’ll just stick with standard champagne (or crémant), and maybe plunk an ice cube in it…if I feel like it.

 

 

The new champagnes...meant to be served over ice!

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28 comments

  • Marius Cavasdan
    September 24, 2019 3:42pm

    Totally agree. Cremants are a very good alternative to Champagne. Very good quality especially in Loire, Bourgogne, Alsace and at decent prices. Recently I discovered also the Cremant du Jura which I found very good, if you into a chardonnay mostly sparkling.

    • September 24, 2019 7:10pm
      David Lebovitz

      Yes, crémants are less-well-known, as there are other sparkling wines as well, but a good crémant is delicious and an excellent (and more budget-friendly) alternative to champagne. Although champagne is pretty good, too : )

  • September 24, 2019 5:28pm

    I have put ice in wine not only to cool it off on hot summer nights but also to dilute it–drinking anything too strong in the heat is a sure route to disaster.
    But champagne? Not sure. I’d rather get a good bottle of the traditional stuff.
    As Marius says, crémant and blanquette are good budget alternatives. We like the offerings from Limoux.

  • Janet
    September 24, 2019 5:33pm

    Claude Monet used to decant his Champagne.

    • September 24, 2019 7:09pm
      David Lebovitz

      Really? What did that do?

      • Kate H.
        September 24, 2019 8:03pm

        This is why the coupe glass exists. It was the fashion at the time to open it in advance of serving to let the bubbles out and serve it with less effervescence.

        • September 24, 2019 8:15pm
          David Lebovitz

          That’s interesting. I never know that – thanks! I know that nowadays the ideal glass for drinking champagne is a standard wine-tasting glass, which is shown in the photo of Romain tasting the champagne (sans glaçons). Coupes sort of fell out of favor, in favor of flutes, but given the choice, I think coupes are a little more fun.

          I was going to add that flutes are also more fragile than coupes, but I drop and broke one of the coupe glasses shown in the post, when I was washing them later : (

          • Marius Cavasdan
            September 25, 2019 3:35pm

            I also like to drink the sparkling wine, whether its champagne, cremant or cava, from a normal wine glass. Flutes really don’t help in getting the aromas of the wine.

  • Geraldine
    September 24, 2019 6:46pm

    Oh yes, was taught to do this by my French friends the 25 years I lived in Buenos Aires. Now in BARCELONA, I put ice into my CAVA.

  • Helen
    September 24, 2019 7:11pm

    My parents served us kids wine, on special occasions, over ice so I’ve drank it iced for many years but will admit I like local wine tastings for the full burst of nuanced flavors. I’ll try champagne over ice at the next celebration since it is usually served too warm.

    • September 24, 2019 7:33pm
      David Lebovitz

      I was a guest at someone’s house for dinner and after dinner they served warm Sauternes. I wanted to ask for an ice cube because it really shines when chilled and when warm or at room temperature, it just tastes too sweet. But I didn’t.

  • Monica
    September 24, 2019 7:39pm

    I had this about a year ago while living in Singapore! Time and place for it I feel, on the equator it definitely worked!

    • Kathi Koegle
      September 24, 2019 8:01pm

      Another great post, D!

      What I really want to thank you for is your post on Bernachon chocolates in Lyon. They are heavenly & beautifully crafted! Like you, I might need to line my suitcase with Kalouga Bars. Haha!

      You are a great writer & a terrific resource!

      • September 24, 2019 8:17pm
        David Lebovitz

        Thanks so much! : )

        btw: I heard news Bernachon is opening a shop in Paris in the 6th. I hope to do a post about it when they open.

  • Ellen A.
    September 24, 2019 7:43pm

    Thank you for bringing these variants to my attention. I’ll be careful not to buy them by accident.
    Good thing I was not drinking anything bubbly when I saw your comment about
    “whiskey stones.” I laughed out loud at that one!

    • September 25, 2019 11:44am
      David Lebovitz

      I always wonder, why would anyone want a rock in their glass? I can imagine they don’t feel very pleasant when your lips touch them, which is why they probably never caught on.

  • Bee Lawson
    September 24, 2019 9:52pm

    You say this wine lacked the nuances of champagne … perhaps it is marketing ruse to flog units of something that is cheaper to make

  • amyP
    September 24, 2019 10:43pm

    Just last night I enjoyed rosé on ice! Glad I was not making a faux pas. Thank you for bringing me to Paris. :-)

  • Jill
    September 24, 2019 10:52pm

    Ice in champagne. Must be an effect of global warming ;))

  • Susan
    September 25, 2019 1:38am

    Thanks David. I am always learning from you. I have put ice cubes in my Sauvignon Blanc but never in champagne. Most interesting. Makes sense. Now when I am served champagne & it is not cold enough I will take your advice & add an ice cube or two…. and when the host gives me a nasty little look, I will give you all of the credit !
    Love, love your books & your writing. Thank you.

    • September 25, 2019 3:44am
      David Lebovitz

      One friend in the wine business said a good way to chill a glass of champagne that’s not quite cold enough is to put an ice cube in it just for a few moments. But I drink pretty fast, so if the traditional champagne is on the warm side, I leave a single cube in.

  • September 25, 2019 10:48am

    I found it really interesting to hear your view on this – I’ve tried a few of the cheaper versions in HyperU and I find them all too sweet and one note, too!

  • Susan
    September 25, 2019 3:28pm

    Thank you for this post. I love champagne ice cold which is how I serve it at home. So often in restaurants it is improperly chilled – especially if served by the glass.

  • Susan R. Kelley
    September 25, 2019 6:02pm

    We live in Mexico so often put ice in our wine. Not so much it dilates it unreasonably, however. Doubt we will still be alive when this champagne hits the Mexican market. Maybe a Mexican winery will pick up on this. There are some really good Mexican wines that are priced reasonably. Love your blogs, David!

  • Lorna
    September 27, 2019 12:39am

    Wait! Am I the only flyer who misses Sky Mall? It was so fun to read!

  • Carolyn Z
    September 27, 2019 11:58pm

    I enjoyed it too.

    • October 8, 2019 7:05pm

      Interesting! But I don’t think I’d pay 40 euros for champagne that needs ice in it; that seems like it could be more variable in result than I’d want.

  • September 29, 2019 9:15pm

    The weather around here just won’t cool down. I will definitely need to try this!