Champagne isn’t a region known for innovation. When you have a product that’s so delicious and so commercially successful, then why would you mess with it?
But marketing is critical for Champagne. Its value isn’t so much in its intrinsic sensory qualities, as much as its perceived worth. Many normal people drink Champagne and enjoy it simply because it is Champagne: a true celebrity among wines. So smart Champagne houses have realised that there’s an audience they are missing out on. This is an audience who, when they go out, don’t want to simply order a glass of wine or Champagne. They want something a bit more elaborate. Spirits/cocktails/mixed drinks are becoming extremely popular, and the large Champagne houses are keen that they aren’t left behind.
Hence Veuve Clicquot Rich, a new product (first introduced last year, but with the very recent addition of the rosé to the range). It’s a Champagne ‘dedicated to mixology’. The idea is you serve it in a large glass, over ice, with a selected ingredient that is supposed to bring out the best in the wine.
I was curious, so I went to the Veuve Clicquot Aqua Nueva Roof Garden to check it out (30 Argyll Street, London W1F 7EB).
The Rich Rosé is a 45% Pinot Noir, 40% Meunier, 15% Chardonnay blend with 12% of red wine, giving it a full color. But in order to make it work in a mixed drink context, it is given a higher dosage (60g/l, compared with the standard 9g/l). The idea is to serve it over ice with ingredients such as lime, ginger, pineapple or Earl Grey Tea. We went for the ginger option, and it worked really well. Tried on its own, the Rich is noticeably sweet, but still balanced.
As a comparison, we tried it alongside the regular Rich, which came with a cucumber garnish. This was also pretty good.
These drinks fit very well with the trendy high-end bar vibe of Aqua. The big question: is it somehow wrong to use Champagne in mixed drinks and cocktails? Don’t you lose the nuances that make Champagne special? Wouldn’t any other – far cheaper – sparkling wine be able to do the same job? The answer is that it matters that this drink is all about two very powerful brands. There’s Champagne, and there’s Veuve Clicquot. When you pay for luxury, you don’t pay for the functionality of the product, although it has to be functional. No one buys a high end handbag because of its functionality as a handbag, and no one buys an expensive watch because of its accuracy in telling the time. Just as with Moët’s Ice, the concept can be copied, but the dual brand quality can’t.
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