Champagne Face-Off: Cristal vs Ace of Spades
Which is better: Ace of Spades or Cristal?
- 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.
- Created by: Louis Roederer
- 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
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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.”
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.
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!