We’re back with another question from the Binny’s Mailbag.
Dear Binny’s Mailbag -
White Star is my favorite Champagne. Why don’t you stock it any more? Can you order some for me?
Good question. The short answer is that Moet no longer makes White Star.
The more honest, complicated and rambling answer is that the product that used to be called “White Star” has undergone an evolution in style and branding over the last few years. In the very same spot on Binny’s shelves that once held White Star, you will now find Moet & Chandon Imperial Brut. Moet cites shifting consumer expectations and a better representation of the house style as motivation for this gradual change.
We were a bit stunned a few years ago when Moet announced that they were changing the name of Moet White Star to Moet Imperial. Everything else on the bottle and label stayed the same except for the brand name. The formula shifted a little, too. The new Imperial was a touch more dry than White Star, but shared the same characteristic breadth and weight with the iconic extra dry. And for about a year, customers couldn’t believe us when we told them about the change.
The brand is now making a second shift. The Imperial label now carries the word Brut, meaning an even more dry, streamlined, fresh and elegant Champagne. Watch for that word – Brut – to know which Imperial you are buying. As the transition happens, any Binny’s location may have one, or the other, or even both, until the older blend has sold through.
Now let’s get geeky. What makes this new Imperial Brut fresher and lighter? The biggest factor is lower dosage, meaning less sugar is added into the bottles during aging. Specifically 9 g/liter. Sugar feeds the yeast that make the bubbles, but there’s often a little left over, giving the wine some sweetness and breadth. Less dosage means a leaner Champagne. Also, there is more chardonnay and less pinot noir in the assemblage, giving the wine more structure and less fruit weight. Plus the each bottle of Imperial Brut sees more time in the cellar – an increase from 18 up to 24 months, lending more maturity and a finer bead.
We’ve tasted the new Imperial Brut and we do think it’s a solid Champagne. It has what we look for – lean freshness, focused acidity, great fruit notes of mostly green apple with a touch of toasted vanilla and nuts, and enough bubbles to get us smiling. We do prefer it over the old White Star formula, but then we like our bubbles a little severe.
Of course, if we can’t convince you that this new Imperial Brut is great stuff, if you are looking for a bottle from Moet that’s more along the lines of the sweet old White Star, be sure to check out their new Ice Imperial (over there on the right). It’s being billed as a “fun” Champagne, and they suggest serving it over ice. Get this: at one tasting, we were served the new Ice Imperial over ice, with blueberries and fresh, muddled mint. Serious Champagne? Not really. Fun to drink? Sure it is. Curiously, Ice Imperial is only available to us in limited quantities in a two-bottle gift set that also comes with an ice bucket and glasses. It’s kind of a party in a box.