Armand de Brignac, which is more commonly known as Ace of Spades due to its distinctive bottle and logo, has recently become one of the most popular brands of champagne on the market. This is in no small part due to its recent acquisition in 2014 by the famous artist Jay Z which boosted its prestige and desirability and can now be found in shops, restaurants, clubs, and bars all around the world. In this review, we will take an in-depth look at this popular beverage, including its history, its production, and Jay Z’s involvement with the brand.
History of the Ace of Spades Drink
The champagne is produced by the Cattier family, which is a Champagne House that is family owned and located in France, in the village of Chigny les Roses. Since as far back as 1763 (before the French Revolution) the Cattier family have owned vineyards and grown grapes in the Montagne de Reims region but didn’t start to produce champagne of their own under their name until 1918. The House is run by the family with the current patriarch Jean-Jacques Cattier at the helm and helped by his son Alexandre. The father and son team are the 12th and 13th generation of wine growers and set strict limits on the annual yields during production. Their stated goal is to produce champagne of the highest quality which does their region proud. The name de Brignac is reputed to have come from Jean-Jacques mother who read about a character in a novel with the same name and which was registered to the Cattier family in the 40s or 50s. Despite its early registration champagne using the de Brignac moniker was not released until 2006. In the meantime, the family had been putting stocks of reserve wines to the side in anticipation for their dreams of releasing champagne. When it was finally launched it was done so with the addition of the word Armand in the name which had to be added under the direction of Comite Interprofessionnel du vin Champagne. This is a French industry organisation who required this addition so that the champagne would not be confused with a village in France called Brignac which is located just outside of the region of Champagne.
Jay Z Champagne
Jay Z had originally been a fan of Cristal (see our Cristal buyer’s guide here), rapping about it in his songs but who has since banned it from his clubs and sports lounges, replacing it with other brands. He felt that the managing director of the company had made comments that did not sit well with the artist and after a long relationship between the brand and hip hop called for it to be boycotted. Not long after that, the distinctive Ace of Spades Gold Bottle appeared in one of Jay-Z’s songs, which was followed by the announcement that he had bought the company in November 2014. Since then the popularity of the champagne has soared and is consumed by plenty of rich and famous celebs the world over.
Some infamous incidents involving the Ace of Spade’s drink include a 15 litre bottle bought by Mark Cuban in 2011 for $90,000 to celebrate the Dallas Mavericks winning the NBA basketball championships. Just one week passed by and a 30 litre bottle of de Brignac, called the Midas, was sold for $100,000 to celebrate the victory of the Boston Bruins. This was one of only six Midas bottles that was available anywhere in the world at the time, and were the largest bottles of Champagne that could possibly be bought. 2011 was a stellar year for Champagne when in June Don Johnson, the legendary blackjack player, forked out £120,000 for a bottle of Midas in London at the One For One Club. That was the record for the world’s most expensive bottle of champagne and was part of a £170,000 splurge by Johnson on drinks that night.
Armand de Brignac Production
The entire process of producing an Ace of Spades bottle of champagne is done to the highest standard by a small production team. Around 18 people are intimately involved in every step from handpicking the fruit to labelling the bottles and everything in between. The team is not pressured to produce high volumes so can instead focus solely on crafting the highest quality product they can while fussing over every little detail. The hand picked grapes come from some of the finest terroirs in Champagne which have been worked by the Cattier family for over 250 years. Each year they scour their vineyards in search of the finest grapes to go into their champagnes. They also do so in a sustainable way which is one of their core values and their lands have been given top marks by the French government for their conservation efforts.Once the finest grapes have been selected they are then pressed at one of the Cattier family’s own presses and the freshest of the first batch is used to produce the champagne. Due to the exclusive selection process and the high standard applied to this stage of manufacture the champagne is imbued with a character that is exceptionally fruity, yet well balanced and soft. During production, a dosage of the best of the harvests base wine is added to each Ace of Spades bottle then aged in French Oak for one year thirty feet below ground. This step is included to give the champagne more complexity and adds pastry and vanilla hints. Blending the three vintages is a process that is unique to Ace of Spades Champagne which combines the characteristics of the three crops to create something uniquely special. Each Ace of Spades bottle is finished by hand and a French pewter label added to each. Then the bottle is hand polished and placed in an attractive wooden box, adding to the unique feel to each one. When it comes to yield, each year the Cattier family produce around 60,000 bottles of its champagne which is low when compared to other popular champagne brands.
Ace of Spades Champagne Varieties
There are currently five cuvees in the range, these are:
The Ace of Spades gold bottle is the most iconic in the de Brignac line up and the most popular of the range. It is made from a combination of three different vintages from some of the best terroirs in the area which gives it its fresh and fruity drinking experience. The flavour combines a mixture of apricot, peach, berries, followed by citrus. The vibrant palette combines cherry, fruits, lemon, honey, and vanilla. The brut is composed of 40% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, and 20% Pinot Meunier from the 2009, 2010, and 2012 vintages. The Gold Brut is perfect for consuming right away, but it is also possible to cellar the bottle beyond 2025 which will develop its character even further. As it is the most popular cuvee from the range it is available in a multitude of bottle sizes – 187ml, 750ml, 1.5L, 3L, 4.5L, 6L, 9L, 12L, 15L, and the infamous 30L bottle. When it comes to pairing the Gold Brut with food, it has been recommended to go well with roast quail, fish (freshwater), and seared scallops.
The Rose comes in an attractive light pink bottle with the instantly recognisable ace of spades logo. Three vintages are again used in its make up with the majority coming from old vine Pinot Noir from Montagne de Reims. These grapes have an intensely strong flavour which gives the Rose a red fruit layer along with aromas reminiscent of finely baked pastry. The nose gives a strawberry and currants taste, combined with almond and a floral touch. The palate overflows with cherries, black fruits and the previously mentioned baked pastry effect. The three grape varieties that are used in production are Pinot Noir (50%), Pinot Meunier (40%), and Chardonnay (10%) from the 2009, 2010, and 2012 vintages. Like the Gold Brut, the Rose can be drunk now or it can be cellared to develop its character further for around 10 to 15 extra years. Due to the demand for the Rose, it is available in bottle sizes of – 750ml, 1.5L, 3L, 4.5L, 6L, 9L, 12L, 15L and also the big 30L bottle. The Rose is recommended as a perfect accompaniment to wild salmon, duck confit, and truffled veal.
Armand De Brignac Demi-Sec
This prestige Demi Sec, the only one in the world, comes in an attractive purple bottle and is made from the first part of the press. The Demi Sec is an exclusive drink that has a strong fruity flavour, along with a sweetness that goes well with a wide range of accompanying dishes. On the tasting side, it delivers a wonderful mix of notes such as quince, caramel, brioche, fruits, and candy. While the palate is full of honey, citrus, and blackberries. The Demi Sec is made up of a combination of Pinot Noir (40%), Chardonnay (40%), and Pinot Meunier (20%) from 2009, 2010, and 2012 vintages. The Demi Sec is available exclusively in 750ml bottles only and can be enjoyed now or cellared for a further 10-15 years. As mentioned before it pairs well with a range of cuisines particularly cheeses, fois gras, fruits, and desserts.
Armand De Brignac Blanc De Blancs
Presented in a lush silver bottle this champagne is made using grapes from the Cote des Blancs – deep in Chardonnay country. This champagne is produced in small quantities and delivers a uniquely light and rounded experience. The Blanc de Blanc has notes of baked pastry that are then followed by gingerbread, hazelnut, and pear. The palate provides gooseberry, peach and guava flavours, finished with minerals and spices. As to its composition, this champagne is made entirely from Chardonnay grapes from 2009, 2010, and 2012 vintages. It is perfect for downing right away but its character can be well developed by collectors for another 20 years. Blanc des Blanc comes in three bottle sizes – 750ml, 1.5L and the larger 3L bottle, and pairs well with sashimi, shellfish, sea bass, and cheese.
Armand De Brignac Blanc de Noirs Assemblage Two
Only 2,333 bottles of the Blanc de Noirs Assemblage Two were produced using some of the finest grapes available in the region. All of which are prime Pinot Noir growing villages in Champagne. Each of the bottles in the production run are individually numbered and their disgorgement date is also inscribed – 20 June 2016. This champagne is made entirely using Pinot Noir grapes from 2008, 2009 and 2010 vintages, and delivers notes of honeysuckle, grape, peppermint, apricot, and peach. Minerality is provided with a mixture of cinnamon, mint, and fruit. The de Noir provides collectors with an excellent chance to develop it further by cellaring it for up to another 15 years. It comes in a 750ml bottle only and is recommended to go with trout, lamb, and roast duck.
Critical Reception of Ace OF Spades
Every bottle in the fabulous Ace of Spades range has garnered favourable reviews since being launched over a decade ago. In 2009 Fine Champagne Magazine conducted a blind taste test of one thousand different champagne brands. The winner was Armand de Brignac who came out top against all of its competitors. 2015 was a stellar year with the Blanc de Blancs picking up a Double Gold Medal at the International Wine Competition in San Francisco, and the Brut Gold also picked up a Gold at the same event. In 2016 the range garnered favourable reviews with 92 points for the Rose, 95 for Brut Gold, 94 for the Blanc de Blancs, 96 for the Blanc de Noirs Assemblage Two, and the Assemblage One called the best De Noirs in the world. This was followed up in 2017 when TastingBook.com called the Brut Rose the best Rose Champagne in the world. In our opinion, Ace of Spades tastes like heaven in either a red wine glass
or a stemless champagne flute
. Be sure to store you champagne correctly
. Nothing is worse than losing a great bottle due to poor storage.