Champagne Market Leader Setting a New Trend or Making a Mistake?

moetHere’s a report I just read on

Moët & Chandon is to lower the dosage of its market-leading Brut Impérial from 12 grams per litre to 9 g/l according to its chef de cave Benoît Gouez. This follows the decision by Dom Pérignon’s chef de cave Richard Geoffroy to gradually lower the sugar levels on the prestige cuvée, having dropped the dosage for its late-disgorged Oenothèque Champagnes.

As previously reported by the drinks business, Geoffroy said, “There has been a strategy of lowering the dosage in the last 10 years and we are now between 6 and 7 g/l.”

Hmmm… I’ve been selling Champagne (the real stuff) for quite a few years. Many of the people who buy it want to “treat themselves to a bottle.” They don’t mind that the price is considerably higher than many other very good sparkling wines — they’re buying it because it’s pricey. They figure that if it’s expensive, it must be good, and that’s what makes Champagne a treat.

Problem is, most of those folks don’t drink Champagne, or even wine, very often. That usually means their palates aren’t accustomed to truly dry wines. I’ve heard many say, “I spent a lot of money on Dom Perignon because it was supposed to be so special, and I didn’t even like it.” Yep, it’s too dry and yeasty for their palates.

But Moet et Chandon White Star wasn’t. It was my go-to Champagne because it was not as dry as all the others. It was considered an “Extra-Dry,” which in the totally un-logical language of Champagne-speak means “not as dry as Brut.”   Apparently others felt the same way, because it was the clear market leader in the U.S.

A few years ago, someone at Moet decided to kill the White Star name. I was kinda puzzled. Simple-minded retailer that I am, I thought, “Why fix it if it ain’t broke and it’s beating the pants off everything else in the market?”

But they went ahead and replaced White Star with Moet et Chandon Brut Imperial. It was supposed to be, as the Moet chef de cave noted above, just a little drier tasting than White Star.

I don’t know if  the new Imperial sells as briskly as the old White Star — I’d love to see sales figures. And maybe there’s a twist: maybe it’s not all that dry after all.

The article I quoted above goes on to explain:

“…this decision by the biggest brand in the region follows a global trend towards adding less sugar to the world-famous fizz. Partly explaining this development is kinder weather in Champagne, giving riper and more complex fruit with less reliance on a conventional dosage of between 10-12 g/l.”

A ha! Maybe adding less sugar isn’t making the Champagne taste a lot drier: maybe the warmer climate in Champagne territory is producing grapes that don’t need as much added sweetness (that’s what “dosage” is) to make it palatable.

Does that mean “Champagne” is less Champagne?

Does that mean Moet et Chandon is really smart?

I guess only time (and the will and palates of the people) will tell. Cheers!

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3 Responses to “Champagne Market Leader Setting a New Trend or Making a Mistake?”

  • Moet are following the trend, not leading it, as usual, most of my friends, who make award winning Champagnes that leave most Moet product standing, have been at 6 grams for some time and are shifting towards the non dosé, no sugar at all! The addition of sugar masks the defects in the wine, so you have to have an excellent product to do away with it. I live in Champagne and know a few the oenologues who make the Grand Marques, most of them, given the Family orientation of the business, are involved in the small labels, if not their own family concerns, where they do not have to compromise to deliver the enormous quantities the Grand Marques provide. Champagne is big business but it is like living in a small village, the talent comes from a small pool, look up how many Champagnes have the Geoffroy name!
    visit our site at and meet some of the makers and see the process first hand.

    • Thanks for the interesting information. Here in the U.S. we don’t get many of the smaller labels that you’re talking about, but I’d love to try them. I’ll certainly check out your site, too.
      Deb L.

  • Michelle:

    Hi there,

    The explanation is even simpler: Moet & Chandon White Star was not Brut. And Moet & Chandon Imperial is not Brut. In the US we have Imperial – NOT “Brut Imperial” from Moet & Chandon. Like White Star before it, Imperial is an Extra Dry. The comments by Monsieur Geoffroy don’t pertain to a product sold in the US. Brut Imperial has been off the market for about 10 years (and it was always called Brut Imperian even when White Star was around).

    Hope that helps clarify! :-)

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