Champagne Face-Off: Cristal vs Ace of Spades


December 31, 2015 Blog » Wine Tips & Tricks » Champagne Face-Off: Cristal vs Ace of Spades

Which is better: Ace of Spades or Cristal?

Which Champagne brand is better? We break down the technical details of the differences between Cristal and Armand de Brignac’s Ace of Spades.
ace-of-spades-vs-cristal-champagne

Ace of Spades Gold

  • Created by: Armand de Brignac
    (brand 2006, Cattier maison 1763)
  • Cost: $300
  • Style: Non-Vintage Champagne
  • Blend: 40% Chardonnay, 40% Pinot Noir, and 20% Pinot Meunier
  • Taste: dry and creamy with flavors of red apple, white cherry, grapefruit, lemon peel, toasted bread and fresh cream
  • Aging: 3 years

Ace of Spades is a start-up producer with eyes on the stars. Wines are riddled by hand in a deep underground cellar. The production is about 60,000 bottles.

Cristal

  • Created by: Louis Roederer
    (since 1776)
  • Cost: $150
  • Style: Vintage Champagne
  • Blend: 60% Pinot Noir and 40% Chardonnay
  • Taste: dry and creamy with flavors of honey, orange peel, raspberry, white cherry, apple, toast, hazelnut, and white chocolate
  • Aging: 6 years

Cristal is made by a very large Champagne house with modern methods including mechanical riddlers. The production size is about 300,000 to 400,000 bottles.

 

The real battle: Cristal vs Jay-Z

Jay-Z, Diddy and TI pour out CristalJay-Z, Diddy and TI pour out several hundred dollars of Cristal. source

Living the high-life is what led Jay-Z to pontificate his love for Cristal in “Hard Knock Life” (he said “And sip the Cris’ and get pissy-pissy”). Then, in 2006, Jay-Z dropped the wine off the list at the 40/40 Club and vowed to never drink it again. He did this after reading the article when the Economist Magazine asked Frederic Rouzaud, the managing director of Louis Roederer, how he felt about Cristal becoming the drink of the “Bling Lifestyle” and Rouzaud said:

“That’s a good question, but what can we do? We can’t forbid people from buying it. I’m sure Dom Perignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business.”

Armand de Brignac Ace of Spades by Jay-Z is 100% Pinot Noir
Jay-Z believed the comment to be disrespectful of his lifestyle as well as racist. He quickly switched his preference from Cristal to the three-hundred-dollar-per-bottle Armand de Brignac “Ace of Spades” and talked about it on his track “On to the next one” on Album The Blueprint. It’s hard to know exactly how Jay-Z feels about the matter, but he sent a definite message and given that Jay-Z is a businessman… perhaps he saw an opportunity.

Ace of Spades skyrocketed into popularity and in November 2014, Jay-Z bought the brand outright. He is the first rapper to control a prestige Champagne brand. One year after purchasing the brand, Jay-Z introduced his ultimate Champagne by Ace of Spades: the $799 Blanc de Noirs

Ace of Spades Blanc de Noirs

This wine is made with 100% Pinot Noir, made from multiple vintages of wines from the Cattier vineyards in Bouzy and Verzenay in Champagne.

 

Opinion

When it comes down to it, both wines are very well made. And, we have to hand it to Jay-Z for creating a benchmark Champagne based on Pinot. That said, here are the three factors that one could argue would make Cristal a better buy:

  • You can buy 2 bottles of Cristal for the price of one Ace of Spades
  • Cristal sits on the lees for twice as long as Ace of Spades
  • Cristal is vintage Champagne, an arguably superior Champagne classification

Either way, you can’t do wrong. You can find out more about the kingly history of Cristal in this article. If you’re still recovering from sticker shock of prestige Champagne, pop an affordable bottle of Crémant and call it a night. That’s what we do. Salut!

Sources
Frederic Rouzaud puts his foot in his mouth on The Economist in May 2006
Jay-Z boycotts Cristal in June 2006
Jay-Z buys Ace of Spades for an undisclosed sum in 2014


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By Madeline Puckette
I'm a certified wine geek with a passion for meeting people, travel, and delicious food. You often find me crawling around dank cellars or frolicking through vineyards. Find me at @WineFolly