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JAY-Z vs. CRISTAL PART II | THE ARTICLE IN THE ECONOMIST THAT STARTED IT ALL

Bubbles and bling
By Gideon Rachman
From Intelligent Life, Summer 2006

Krug/Getty Images/Louis Roederer

Serious champagne drinkers sip only the prestige cuvées produced by a handful of winemakers. But at up to $600 a bottle, it pays to be a dictator or a pop-star

WINSTON CHURCHILL was a Pol Roger man. Madonna and Gérard Depardieu are devotees of Krug. James Bond drank Dom Pérignon in the novels, although he had switched to Bollinger by the time he made it to the silver screen. The Russian tsars adored Louis Roederer’s Cristal, a taste that is shared today by rap singers Sean “P.Diddy” Combs (Puff Daddy) and Snoop Dogg. Welcome to the world of prestige cuvées—the very best and most expensive of champagnes, which go for anything from $100 to over $600 a bottle.

When ordinary mortals want to celebrate, the question is less likely to be Cristal or Krug, than whether to drink champagne or sparkling wine. Once the choice is made in favour of real champagne—produced only in the Champagne region of north-eastern France—it becomes a question of brand. Should you go for one of the big reliable names like Moët & Chandon or Veuve Clicquot; or maybe something a bit cheaper or more adventurous from a lesser known grower? If you feel like splashing out, you might plump for a vintage champagne. But for a select band of people—a mixture of champagne fanatics and the super rich—only the very best will do. Thus the need for “prestige cuvées”.

Just who these ultra-fancy champagnes are aimed at is a slightly sensitive issue. Cristal was originally created exclusively for the Russian tsars. Jean-Claude Rouzaud, who managed the Louis Roederer winery until his retirement earlier this year, once said: “We make our champagne for that 3-5% of consumers who really know wine, and who take the time to taste it correctly.”

FOR THE REST OF THIS STORY VISIT: www.economist.com

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