By now you should already have heard about Jay Z’s Ace of Spade or Brad Pitt’s Miraval Champagne, and I hope to inform and entertain you with this fun article about Celebrities and Champagne.
Champagne is a special kind of wine. Most people reserve it for celebrations and treating themselves with a special time. If you offer wine in a gathering, patrons will be happy. But add Champagne, and eyes will sparkle. Mood will turn more to party mode. Seduction will be in the air. It’s just that special.
It’s also the kind of drink instantly associated with luxury and glamour. There isn’t any other kind of spirit that will enhance nearly as much the appeal to a dinner gala, an Oscars reception, a Paris Fashion Week after-party.
So it’s no surprise that celebrities feel drawn to it. First, it will elevate them to the marketing level of the rest of Very Important People, and I don’t say it in any negative way. Champagne only really caught up in the 1730s when Louis XV adopted it in Versailles after tasting it in Reims during his coronation. Soon after, every other King, Emperor, Duchess, Baroness and Count in Europe followed suit. Second, it is a Big Business of 5 billion euros a year. Largest luxury company in the world, Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy (LVMH) was founded by Moët et Chandon and produces almost a quarter of all champagne wines. Lastly, it is soooo good. It’s currently my favorite kind of wine, and I can’t see it changing.
Now that you know WHY celebrities like champagne so much, let’s talk about most famous ones that made it part of their portfolio so far.
Jay Z (Shawn Carter) – Armand de Brignac Ace of Spades (Champagne Cattier)
He’s a savvy little one, isn’t he? The story is incredible and I always talk about it in my Champagne tours. Champagne had been a staple in nightclubs for a century when the hip hop community took a liking to the bubblies. Rappers have their own style; BLING comes to mind. The brands that really packed a punch in bringing the sparkle to them were Cristal (Champagne Louis Roederer), Krug and Dom Pérignon (Champagne Moët et Chandon), because of the mix of tradition, prestige and packaging.
Then, in 2006 the Economist Magazine wrote the article Bubbles and Bling, where the aim was to superficially talk about how those three brands presented themselves and why they were the top ones. But it angered Jay Z, legendary rapper and founder of entertainment agency Roc Nation. You see, he had written “Let’s sip the Cris and get pissy-pissy” in “Hard Knock Life”. He loved Cris. But did Cris love Z? I’ll just paste below the words of the CEO:
“It has come to my attention that the managing director of Cristal, Frederic Rouzaud views the ‘hip hop culture’ as ‘unwelcome attention’. I view his comments as racist and will no longer support any of his products through any of my various brands including the 40/40 Club nor in my personal life.”
One could be tempted to think he would just trade Cris for Dom P or Krug, but then… He released, in the same year, the video of Show Me What You Got, where he is seen bringing a Bond style metal suitcase to a casino in Montecarlo, dissing Cristal and revealing and revelling in a golden shiny champagne bottle with a big Ace of Spades logo. He had found his BLING back.
Actually, Jay Z bought a stake in this new brand of Champagne produced by a then small house called Cattier near Reims. This house had been releasing good Champagne for some centuries, it’s one of the oldest around. I tasted a pretty good Cattier vintage some years ago. But back in the 2000s they wanted a breakthrough, imagined the romantic name Armand de Brignac, hired the prestigious Courrèges designer studio, who created the impressive sculpted metal casing, and partnered with an American distributor to compete in the prestige Champagne market. The bet paid.
Although Ace of Spades had received its fair amount of criticism throughout the years, receiving mediocre notes some times, it has more recently started to hover above 90 out of 100 in established rankings. They are all non vintages, blending wines of different years but with different blends of Pinot, Chardonnay and Meunier, including a Rosé. They come in many sizes, like the 100.000 $ Nebuchadnezzar (15 liters or 4 gallons) one splashed by David Ortiz after his 2013 World Series, typically starting from 300$.
Everything seemed just breezin’, Beyoncé and Jay Z came to Champagne at least once to visit Cattier at Chigny-les-Roses, and had a fun barbeque, I’ve been told by someone who knows someone who was present, allegedly. Beyoncé would have uttered “amaaaaazing” many times. Allegedly!
Brad seems to be a nice guy, liked by and friends with many of the most envied men in the world. He married one of the most desired women in the world, with whom he decided in 2008 to buy a real Château in France, the legendary Miraval, and where they had their wedding in 2014. In this castle from the 1600s, Studio Miraval had been established by French pianist Jacques Loussier in the 1970s, and high profile artists like Pink Floyd, Sting, The Cure, AC/DC, Wham and Indochine recorded there before its shutdown.
After a bumpy renovation of the estate started in 2011, with an expensive lawsuit over the mismanagement by a contractor, the couple entered in a deal with respected winemaker family Perrin, originally from Chateneuf du Pape fame, who wanted to acquire something in Provence, for the production and distribution of Provence wine, mostly Rosé, made in the region around the castle. Miraval was born.
It was a hit, right in the moment of a Rosé fever in the US, “Rosé all day”. From a couple thousand bottles in 2012, 2 million bottles are now sold every year, only 2% of which are produced in the estate proper. The venture is interesting enough, with Marc Perrin finding some specific terroirs that match similar geologies in Alsace for white wines and Rhône for the Syrah.
But we are here to talk about Champagne. In 2020, after 5 years of planning, producing and aging, Pitt and Perrin launched the new champagne brand Fleur de Miraval, produced by Champagne Pierre Péters, a traditional family established in the Grand Cru village of Mesnil-sur-Oger. Proprietor of some 20 hectares of Chardonnay in the mythic Côte des Blancs, they have been growing grapes since 1858, and selling under their name since 1929. The uncle of the current owner Rodolphe was the fabled cellar master of Veuve Clicquot, Jacques Péters, who sadly died in 2021, inventor of the Veuve Clicquot non-vintage Rosé first sold in 2006 to incredible success.
What a better way to honour his uncle than to launch another very successful Rosé Champagne? The concept behind Fleur de Miraval is, so far, only non-vintage Rosé at 75% Chardonnay from Côte des Blancs and 25% Pinot noir from Vertus. The only champagne brand focused 100% on Rosé.
Because only 20.000 bottles have been made each year from ER1 (Exclusivement Rosé 1 2020) to ER3 in 2022, there is not a lot of information available, other than it’s mostly sold out and around 300$ a piece. 2023 saw Pitt introduce the brand to the Oscars, becoming the official Champagne at the ceremony, replacing Piper Heidsieck after 7 years of reign.
Apparently, Leo has become friends with Brad since Trantino’s Once upon a Time in Hollywood. And then DiCaprio invests in Champagne… Are these things connected? Probably not, but who knows?
Leo has been a vocal and high profile ambassador of environmental causes since at least 1998, the year he started his foundation. On the other side of the Atlantic, the Champagne House J de Telmont has been converting their vineyards to organic farming since the 2010s. This approach means that one can’t use herbicides, pesticides and can only use copper and sulfur to treat the vines against fungus, which are the main villains of organic grape growing in Champagne. Not using industrial fertilisers, another rule, will have you lowering your average productivity by 30%, I heard, and this before the possible fungus damage in rainy summers.
When I started visiting Telmont with tourists I really liked the House’s style, both in the wines, which were fine and tasty, and in its elegant and well thought out marketing. I heard they were changing their annual production from 700k to only 400k bottles, a staggering 43% change! While this was happening, the L’Hôpital family, the original founders and owners, sought out help to accomplish this metamorphosis, and welcomed Remy Cointreau, the reverend cognac behemoth group, into buying a majority stake.
Ludovic du Plessis, a savvy executive that had worked for Moët & Chandon and Dom Pérignon in the US before being hired by Remy Cointreau, was invited to exchange the role of CEO of Louis XIII cognac for the task of turning J de Telmont into a luxury brand recognized globally by its quality steeped in sustainable practices. And this is the man who had met Dicaprio in the US while managing Dom Pérignon. After what we can suppose was an ecological pitch, Leo was ready to put his hands in his pockets in 2022 for a minority stake in Telmont.
Mariah Carey reportedly didn’t drink much Champagne because it hurt her throat, but it didn’t get in the way of her offering Cristal in some of her parties even after Jay Z’s boycott. As another savvy American celebrity, she has stakes in luxury brand products like perfume and spirits. It wasn’t until 2009 that she started endorsing, and then announcing acquiring stakes in 2010, in Champagne Angel. Watch a bit of this clip where Alan Carr interviews her and they share a bottle of Angel. Do never open a bottle of champagne like Carr did here!
This brand is surrounded by some mystery like Ace of Spades because it’s also born from a marketing project. British businessman Stefano Zagni, previously in the construction products sector, inspired by his Italian wine family origins, saw the niche of luxury designed champagne brands when he got used to frequent the decadent nightclubs’ lifestyle of London.
What I was able to surmise from the scattered reports, is that he first partnered with Patrick Suarez d’Aulan, from the legendary Champagne family previously associated with Piper Heidsieck. D’Aulan doesn’t seem to have anything to do with Angel anymore, seeming more focused on Argentinian wine production, so he may just have helped Zagni find the right connections.
Next, I found reports of grapes coming from the Côte des Blancs subregion, specifically from Mesnil-sur-Oger and Chouilly, being selected and blended by master winemaker “Hubert Dailly”, which in fact is RICHARD Dailly, well-known oenologist that used to be cellar master at one of the biggest coops of Reims, CRVC (Coopérative Régionale des Vins de Champagne).
Anyway, the brand achieved enough success to be featured in some of Carey’s campaigns and videoclips, but not only: fellow superstar Rihanna entered the dance and featured the brand in her video too! And here is a video of Australian singer and TV star Sophie Monk being a sensual Ambassador for the brand.
Is this champagne “considered to be the most innovative and original champagne brand ever approved for production”? Is it even “boutique”? I don’t know, but we can count on it being associated with celebrities for a long time.
Now, you may get confused when you read that his brand Branson is a cognac from the “Grande Champagne” region. TWO DIFFERENT PLACES . Champagne is old French for “plane fields”, so both the sparkling wine region east of Paris and brandy wine region west of France have places called Champagne. But in the Cognac region they say Grande and Petite Champagne for two different areas.
Would you be surprised if I told you that Fifty’s champagne is produced by the same cooperative producing Angel? That’s right, Champagne Castelnau in Reims produces Le Chemin du Roi, and they never tried to obscure the fact as you can see in the video of the rapper visiting Reims in 2019.
Recently, one of his champagnes made news for having been sold for US$ 325.000 in an auction in Houston destined to help young Texans, where Curtis lives. At the same wine competition, you can read he bought a Texan wine for more than US$160.000, and the year before he paid US$ 113.000 for another Texan wine. I think he likes auctions that help young kids… and Texan wine. I’ve been hearing more and more about Fredericksburg, but that’s a bit much.
Anyway, let’s pray that our hip-hop champagne ambassador reaches an agreement with Remy Cointreau about his Branson cognac bottle being too similar to the shape of the famous XO brand. Can’t have Leo and Curtis fighting.
I hope you had fun reading this article. Celebrity gossip cleans the palate, if consumed moderately.