How did Moët Impérial become so popular? We look into its history books
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Champagne. The very name inspires images of decadent, gold-dusted parties brimming with revellers in their fanciest. And if there's one champagne house that has seen the grandest of celebrations, it's Moët & Chandon.
When Frank Sinatra celebrated his 80th birthday, Moët was there. Studio54, the legendary nightclub with a star-studded crowd (Andy Warhol, Diana Ross, Cher, Mick and Bianca Jagger were all regulars), was overflowing with Moët when it first opened its doors in 1977. That famous "cheers" shot of Leonardo DiCaprio in Baz Luhrmann's The Great Gatsby? That's a glass of Moët Impérial he was toasting with. And lest you think that was a marketing coup, it's not. Moët & Chandon only got involved because the film's costume and production designer, Catherine Martin, wanted historical accuracy.
See, Moët & Chandon, one of the oldest and most prestigious champagne houses, has had grand world-domination plans from the outset. It wasn't content with just serving French royals back then; Moët's early sparkling wines were also supplied to the Tsar of Russia, courts of Spain, and the Buckingham Palace. In 1900, the House's flagship Moët Impérial — named after its most famous customer Napoléon Bonaparte and created in 1869 to cater to a shifting preference towards champagne that was less sweet — stepped onto the world stage at the Paris World Fair.
With a burgeoning demand came an increase in production. Over the years, Moët & Chandon expanded its domain of vineyards to feed the growing thirst for brut varieties. It is and has always been the largest champagne maker in the world, owning nearly 1,200 hectares of vines in the Champagne region. So, as an early pioneer in the export of champagne, coupled with the fact that there were far less options in the Roaring Twenties, Gatsby and his party guests were very likely to be showered with — you guessed it — Moët Impérial.
Of course, taste also has plenty to do with Moët Impérial's legacy. For 150 years, Moët & Chandon has managed to keep the bright-fruitiness style of its flagship bottle consistent and well-balanced — even with a climate as unpredictable as in Champagne, France. "Each year, we face the awesome challenge of re-creating Moët Impérial, with the same recognisable taste that is beloved around the world, despite having to use grapes that, at each harvest, are never exactly the same in aroma or ripeness", says Moët & Chandon's Chef de Cave Benoit Gouez.
"Moët Impérial doesn't have an exact blend of grapes, even though it is approximately made of two-thirds of Pinot Noir and Meunier, and a lesser one-third of Chardonnay," explains Gouez. "Its 'assemblage' is constantly changing to ensure that it always tastes the same, whatever year it is produced in. Moët Impérial remains consistent because we are constantly controlling, adjusting and adapting. While an industrial producer will apply the same recipe year after year, we make champagne that is made-to-measure."
There's also that enduring perception of champagne as "the wine of kings and the king of wine" — one that Moët & Chandon has strategically maintained over three centuries in the expansion of its empire. Whilst Claude Moët, the House's founder, and his grandson Jean-Remy Moët, were peddling their wines in the royal courts of Europe, Robert-Jean de Vogüé, who took the helm from 1930 to 1970, was dedicated in spreading the House's values of grandeur and hospitality to new markets — America in particular. Understanding the power of influence and aspiration, he mingled with President Eisenhower, dined with Gary Cooper, and charmed the Hollywood aristocracy with his festive champagne. During de Vogüé's time, Moët Impérial cemented its status as a symbol of joyous celebration. It was served at the wedding of Prince Rainier and Grace Kelly; racing champion Dan Gurney sprayed it from the winner's podium at Le Mans in 1967; while film legends Kim Novak and Cary Grant were photographed toasting with a bottle at the Cannes Film Festival.
The stellar level of pop culture exposure is what keeps the Moët Impérial flowing all over the world to this day, as it continues to associate itself with celebrities of its time. Since 1992, the iconic champagne has been the official bubbly of the Golden Globes, and the bottle has had countless appearances in more than 100 films, from Titanic to Pretty Woman to The Devil Wears Prada.
As we approach the end of the year — a time where copious amount of champagne are consumed — there's perhaps no better time to introduce Moët & Chandon's limited-edition bottle, branded with a redesigned logo with a glittery "I", to mark the 150th anniversary of the Moët Impérial.
If reading this has made you even more curious about Moët's heritage and other limited edition bottles, the House's gorgeous headquarters in Epernay, France are open to the public and offer excellent tours and tastings.