The Glamorous History of the Champagne Mini
A brief history of the pocket-sized bubbly—plus, the best miniature sparkling wine bottles to buy today.
If a glass of champagne represents buttoned-up elegance, the easily-transportable champagne mini is the equivalent of letting down your hair (while still keeping things chic, of course). If the standard bottle is a gala, the mini is an after-party on the town.
Referring to those bottles that hold less than 750 mL, 'minis' can include larger Demis, which are half the size, and Piccolos, also called quarters or splits. The earliest mention of champagne minis can be found in archival documents belonging to Moët & Chandon, who’ve staked the claim for the first mini bottle: a split released in 1893 under the now-discontinued White Star label.
Over the last century, mini bottles have risen to cultural symbols in the luxury market—thanks to Moët’s longstanding association with the worlds of art and high fashion. “[Moët & Chandon] has been considered a drink to be seen drinking,” writes Matt Haig in his 2006 book Brand Royalty: How the World’s Top 100 Brands Thrive and Survive. “In the 1930s, ‘mini Moëts’ (a miniature version of the bottle) were an instant hit in Paris cafés among the fashion conscious and added new life to the brand.”
Many of today’s sommeliers and drinkers still vividly recall their first encounter with a mini bottle in the wild. “It was around the time George Michael’s “Freedom! ‘90” track made it to my dentist’s office—when models were being photographed drinking the mini bottles with straws while getting glam,” remembers James Beard Award-winning sommelier Belinda Chang. “I was wine director at Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago at the time and promptly ran out to the store, bought a box of Pommery POP, and loaded up in my friend’s SUV cup holders with the bottles. We cranked the tunes while sipping, all the while with eyes peeled for the po-po.”
Sommelier Sarah Tracey, of The Lush Life and Villanelle in New York City, has a similar standout moment. “In the early 2000s, Jean-Paul Gaultier released a legendary partnership with Piper-Heidsieck, where the bottle was dressed in a red-patent leather,” Tracey recalls. “They had mini versions everyone called “baby PIpers” that came with straws for models at clubs and parties. Nowadays, you can’t swing a Chloe bag without running into a celebrity fashion-and-booze collaboration; at the time, it was revolutionary.”
Now commonplace at bachelorette parties and Fashion Week week parties alike, sparkling wine minis have come to represent the most treasured of celebratory occasions. Last year, Moët even debuted a champagne vending machine at the Golden Globes. (Wanting to outdo renowned gift-giver Kris Jenner, singer John Legend and his wife Chrissy Teigen famously ordered a machine of their own as a housewarming gift for the Kardashian matriarch).
Beyond Moët, standouts include Pommery’s beloved extra-dry POP and “One Four” by Nicolas Feuillatte. And plenty of non-champagne sparkling wines can be found in mini formats as well, from Anna Codorníu, a Spanish cava, to Mionnetto, an Italian prosecco. For consumers, this means a wide variety of options for home entertaining.
So how can you bring some of that signature red-carpet magic to a fancy at-home affair of your own? Christine Ngo Isaac, brand director of consumer engagement at Moët & Chandon, uses Moët Minis for a variety of occasions, from amped-up weekend brunches to house parties. She sees them as a way to modernize the traditional champagne ritual, and encourage champagne-drinking at a wider range of events rather than just at weddings and anniversaries.
“I love to have the bottles unwrapped in an ice bucket so the guests enjoy the ritual of opening them themselves and putting in the signature gold bottle toppers,” says Ngo Isaac. “The toppers mimic the quality you get from a flute and eliminate the need for bringing out and washing glassware.”
Beyond the experiential component of mini bottles, Matthew Kaner, wine director for Will Travel For Wine Inc, says there are practical reasons for embracing the pocket-sized bubbly. “Half bottles are great because you don’t have to commit to a full bottle,” Kaner explains. “You can taste more wines that way. Also, it's a fun way to open the second bottle after you've finished the first, but not be worried about struggling to finish the entire contents of the bottle.”
Despite a premium price tag, mini bottles are also smart options in a restaurant and bar setting—especially one where champagne isn’t poured at a high volume on a nightly basis, and thus risks going flat if served out of a 750mL bottle. With experience managing various beverage programs, Sarah Tracey says guests don’t mind paying more to ensure consistent freshness and know exactly what brand they are getting.
“Because sparkling wines don’t have the same lifespan as still wines once opened, it’s fantastic for solo drinkers to have great champagne options in a single-serve format,” explains Tracey, noting that she’s seen a rise in champagne orders with food. “Although champagne is famed as a great aperitif and festive ‘party wine,’ more and more drinkers are becoming aware of champagne that performs like a serious food wine.”
Belinda Chang agrees: “When I am sitting at a dicey bar, the only champagne that I will purchase is in mini. One never knows how long that 750 has been sitting open in the cooler behind the airport lounge bar. Yikes!”
Ready to shop for your own champagne and sparkling wine minis? We’ve rounded up a selection of our favorite bottles—at every price range—for elevated parties and stocking stuffers alike.
Try these sparkling wine minis at home:
The gold standard for champagne minis, the miniature version of Moët & Chandon’s flagship bottling touts the same signature nose of peach and pineapple with a full palate and crisp finish.
For a pink option, Nicolas Feuillatte’s beloved rosé offers floral and fruity notes, including red cherry and raspberry.
Pommery POP, $12
Another early entry to the market. the extra-dry Pommery POP is well-recognized for its hallmark blue bottle and notes of apple, orange, and lemon.
For a Spanish cava option, try Anna Codorníu’s festive mini, which offers a soft palate with elegant citrus notes that make it ideal for pairing with salty food.
Perfect for stocking stuffers, this more affordable prosecco option balances a light and dry body with a blast of fruity notes.