Sparkling | Wine column | Wine Culture

Moet courts U.S. palates with Imperial Brut

 Moet & Chandon, the venerable producer of luxury French Champagnes, is proof a winery can be two and a half centuries old and still innovate, adapt and evolve with the times.

Moet, one of the largest and most prestigious Champagne houses in France, embraces every hot trend in the industry: sustainable vineyard and cellar practices; the latest technologies in the cellar; and updated styles of cuvees in line with today’s tastes — drier wines, more roses.

Marc Brevot, chief oenologist and winemaker for Moet, came to Detroit recently to talk about one wine: the newest iteration of Moet Imperial, $45. For the first time in the history of Moet, there will be one global flagship blend: the Imperial Brut. So, the message to Americans is this: Say goodbye to Moet’s White Star, the sweeter-style blend made solely for the U.S. market; from now on, Moet’s standard bearer will be a much drier style.

The Moet Imperial, first introduced in 1869, has evolved into a rich wine, with clean, bright, elegant fruit, stimulating acidity and a toasty, brioche character — all of which wake up every taste bud and tease all the senses.

“It’s designed to bring pleasure,” Brevot said, “to create a magical and spontaneous effect on people, to showcase richness and complexity, and to be seductive.

“The Moet Imperial is designed to be consistent — a taste we can reproduce every year,” he said. “No revolution but an evolution,” he said, pointing to the blending of Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir, plus aged reserve wines.

To demonstrate how the nine-member winemaking team creates a consistent wine style year after year, he deconstructed the Imperial for me, with a tasting of sample components that typically make up the blend.

We tasted three Chardonnays, three Pinot Meuniers and three Pinot Noirs — most from grand cru vineyards located all over the Champagne district, plus two reserve wines and a taste of a final blend before the wine is fermented a second time, aged, disgorged and topped off with the dosage. It helped me appreciate how acidic, diverse and powerful the components are early on, and how important the aging and dosage are in creating the final wine.

The Imperial is actually a blend of 100 base wines of which 20 to 30 percent are reserve wines, which enhance the maturity, complexity and constancy of the final wine. It’s like putting a puzzle together, only the size and number of pieces and their origin keep changing.

The nonvintage Brut for any Champagne house is the most important wine: It has the largest production, sets the standard of quality for the brand and is the most accessible in price and availability for consumers who may not be able to afford a vintage bubbly or super cuvee.

For Moet & Chandon, the Imperial, all dressed up in formal packaging fit for a royal table, is the stock showcase wine — the bubbly that powers the brand.

WESTBORN MARKET EVENT

The Dearborn store, at Michigan and Oakwood, will host close to 50 Michigan food vendors from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, with free tastings — everything from local wines to cheeses and jams. Wine specialist Renee Parks will feature wines from St. Julian, plus the store’s own Market White and Market Red wines, and a wine-based punch. For more information, call (313) 274-6100.

TOAST THE COAST

The seventh annual Lake Michigan Shore Wine Festival runs from 1 p.m. to 10 p.m. June 16, at Weko Beach in Bridgman, in southwest Michigan. The wine tastings and live music take place in a tent overlooking the Lake Michigan beach. Admission is $10 for those 21 and older; advance tickets are $8 and available at www.ticketweb.com or at Harding’s Market in Bridgman. For information, go to www.miwinetrail.com.

SMALL PLATES UP NORTH

Leelanau Peninsula Vintners Association presents Small Plates June 16, an evening wine trail event in which wineries offer a full glass of wine with tapas dishes in their tasting rooms. There are three seatings for $15 per seating. Get the full details and order tickets in advance at www.lpwines.com.