How to Drink Champagne Like Jay-Z on Your Next Trip to France (Video)
The cellars of Armand de Brignac are dripping in gold. If not literally, then at least it appears that way.
Buried 30 feet beneath the earth, the cellars of the champagne house (located, of course, in the Champagne region of France) reflect the style of the man everybody in the house calls “our owner.” The owner in question just happens to be Jay-Z.
After a now-famous feud with Cristal back in 2006, Mr. Carter began investing in Armand de Brignac. In 2014, he became its owner — and one of the brand’s most loyal supporters.
If you’re looking to select champagne like Mr. Carter, here’s what you should look for, as determined by the men who produce his favorite.
First off, Jay-Z seems to prefer a champagne brand with heritage. Armand de Brignac is helmed by the Cattier family whose history of growing champagne grapes dates back to 1763. Today, the operation falls to Jean-Jacques and his son, Alexandre, the 12th and 13th generations of champagne producers.
Their production could be called artisanal, or perhaps small batch, champagne. The house only produces about 60,000 bottles of champagne per year. (For reference: Cristal produces anywhere between 300,000 and 400,000 bottles every year.) This is due, in part, to the house’s old-school techniques.
Armand de Brignac boasts that only 18 people will have touched your champagne from harvest until it’s shipped out. Processes that could be automated are “kept traditional,” Alexandre told Travel + Leisure during a recent trip to the vineyard. The bottles are riddled (rotated to kick up sediment) by hand. The vines, which are about 30 years old, are never treated with pesticides. Horses pull tills to turn over the vineyard land. “We’ve been managing our vineyard in an eco-friendly way for 24 years,” Alexandre said.
The famous “Ace of Spades” pewter label — by which the brand is colloquially known — is applied by hand. It’s because of this that each bottle is considered unique and individual. As Jean-Jacques, who has a penchant for metaphors, explains: “each bottle has a touch of soul.”
All the champagnes are available in a magnum-sized bottle, and the growers suggest you opt for that size. Not only is a magnum a particularly cool order, the size is particularly good for aging the champagne, according to Alexandre. Compared to a standard-sized bottle, about half the oxygen gets into a magnum during disgorgement. This means the champagne will mature more slowly, resulting in a more complex taste.
When selecting your champagne, don’t be put off by the term “blend.” According to the family, a well-selected blend can take individual flavors and add them to make something greater than the sum of all its parts. “A vintage blend is like all the instruments of an orchestra playing together,” Jean-Jacques explained. When creating new blends (the directives of which all come from Jean-Jacques and Alexandre), Armand de Brignac tends to favor new combinations that create a complex flavor that plays across the entire palate.
Once you’ve purchased your champagne, by all means, save it for a special occasion. But you won’t want to wait as long as you might for a fine wine. For example, a magnum bottle of Armand de Brignac can be kept and stored for up to 30 years while maintaining its flavor.
And you didn’t hear it here, but rumor has it “the owner” prefers the ultra-rare Blanc de Noirs (a blend of 2008, 2009, and 2010 vintages) called A2. The champagne house only produced 2,333 bottles of the stuff and there are only a couple hundred left in the world, and supposedly, quite a few are in the owner’s personal cellar. The bottles originally priced at $850 but have since disappeared from the market.
But, at the end of the day, the best way to choose your champagne is just to enjoy it fully — whatever that means to you. If you’re looking for the ultimate Armand de Brignac experience, take a hint from Beyoncé and pour a bottle in the hot tub when you’re feeling yourself.
Armand de Brignac provided support for the reporting of this story.