Although the initial thought of serving a quality Champagne over ice may make some wine professionals and enthusiasts cringe, several French sparkling producers are embracing today’s fast-paced life on the go and bottling special blends or cuveés of bubbly intended to be served over ice. Called the piscine or "pool" in French, this accessible and casual approach to drinking sparkling wine on the rocks is making waves in the wine world.
In a beverage, ice acts to both cool the beverage and to dilute it, so these special blends of Champagne are usually a bit denser and slightly sweeter in profile, relying on slowly melting ice to bring out the wine's bright and fresh bouquet. Indeed, adding ice to Champagne works in more ways than one to make this otherwise somewhat exclusive and specialty category of wine more accessible for a wider audience and everyday consumption. No longer should wine drinkers wait for a certain special occasion to pop a cork—just simply lounging poolside or sharing a pizza with friends is occasion enough to pour some Champagne over ice and enjoy. Not interested in Champagne on its own? Conveniently, these specialty bottles are also made for cocktail mixing and blending. Their intense, concentrated nature makes them the perfect addition to a French 75 or another classic Champagne cocktail.
So how should one enjoy Champagne over ice? First, it's important to choose the correct-sized glass—no flutes required! Elect for large, open stemware such as a red wine glass. It may seem counterintuitive, but choosing a glass with a stem is actually important. Holding a wine glass by the bowl introduces heat, which causes the ice to melt more quickly than intended. This dilutes the Champagne without chilling it thoroughly.
Second, the ratio of ice to bubbly also controls the chill and dilution. Professionals recommend three solid ice cubes added to five ounces of Champagne for the perfect blend. Skip chipped or crushed ice, since it melts too quickly without properly chilling the wine.
Third, the order in which the elements are added to the glass serves to enhance the experience. Place the ice cubes in the wine glass first, then pour the five ounces of Champagne over the rocks. This little bit of “white water” showcases the effervescence in the wine and aerates it, releasing the aroma and flavor. Direct contact over the top of the ice also helps to chill and dilute in a consistent manner.
Lastly, to keep the enjoyment going, close the bottle containing the remaining wine with a specialty sparkling wine closure. Different from still wine closures, which attempt to create a vacuum in the bottle, sparkling wine closures create a pressure seal to contain the slowly escaping carbon dioxide, which allows the remaining wine to retain its bubbles. No need to refrigerate leftovers, just add ice for the next glass!
Looking to try a bottle? These following producers are creating cuveés for exactly this purpose.
Moët & Chandon Ice Impérial
Average Price: $60
The blend of mostly Pinot grapes (50 percent Pinot Noir, 40 percent Pinot Meunier, 10 percent Chardonnay) gives this particular wine a rich, fruit-forward profile with a crisp, clean finish. It is sweetened with 45g/l dosage, making the addition of ice a wanted watery and chilly component in this otherwise intense, tropical fruit-styled blend.
Veuve Clicquot Rich NV
Average Price: $60
Classic champagne house Veuve Clicquot recently released its collection of cuvées built for cubes to highlight its signature Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier base. The addition of natural sugars makes this wine the perfect compliment for a glass of ice. Veuve encourages drinkers to add fruit (frozen grapes and berries are great options) or fresh citrus peel to enhance the experience. Notes of ginger, lime, green tea, and ripe red berries layer perfectly with the delicate sweetness and refreshing bubbles.
Veuve du Vernay Ice NV
Average Price: $14
This French sparkler blends several grapes from the Bordeaux region with a drop of sweetness to create a fruity, juicy profile made to be served with ice. The approachable price assures good quality geared towards parties and casual events.
François Montand Demi-Sec Ice NV
Average Price: $18
This traditional method sparkling wine from central France exhibits the quality of a true Champagne without the sticker shock. The base cuvée is fermented at extremely low temperatures to preserve its delicate floral and citrus aromas. Serving over ice with frozen berries or fresh mint leaves enhances the experience, and makes this bottle a perfect pairing for dessert.