Inside a black presentation box is a hinged casket wrapped in a black cloth bag – opening this reveals the new Armand de Brignac Blanc de Noirs Assemblage Three (A3) champagne in a custom-made silver metallised bottle. This is only the third release of Brignac’s Blanc de Noirs and, despite the striptease and the bling, the aim is to emulate the feat of the first release, whose serious credentials were established when it came top in a blind tasting of 250 cuvées in the 2016 annual rankings by Fine Champagne magazine and Tastingbook.com.
Armand de Brignac champagne is owned by Shawn Carter, aka Jay Z, but the Cattier family, 13th-generation champagne growers, are given carte blanche – or should that be carte noire? – to create a cuvée that they believe best fits the brand. In contrast to the more traditional style of Cattier champagne, which is focused on its Montagne de Reims home terroir, Armand de Brignac aims to emphasise the bright, fresh fruit quality and is aimed at a young, sophisticated and, ça va sans le dire, well-heeled audience.
Although the current head of the house is Alexandre Cattier, Armand de Brignac takes its name from the swashbuckling hero of a novel that had captivated his grandmother Nelly as a child. The metallic bottle design originates from the 1980s – when Cattier made a limited-edition champagne in a silver bottle for the futuristic fashion designer André Courrèges – but it wasn’t until the year 2000 that Alexandre’s father Jean-Jacques decided to attach the Armand de Brignac name to the metallised bottle and the “Ace of Spades” motif, which has since become its calling card. A Brut Gold, Rosé and Blanc de Blancs champagne were all launched in 2006 but, as Alexandre admits, “We actually had no idea how to reach the kind of young consumer for whom this champagne was intended.” As luck would have it, Jay Z spotted the bottle, emblazoned with an “Ace of Spades” French-pewter label, and put it in the video for the track Show Me What You Got. Armand de Brignac became an overnight sensation and in 2014 he bought the brand.
The third release of Armand de Brignac Blanc de Noirs is a blend of Pinot Noir grapes from three vintages and four champagne villages: Bouzy (the 2009 vintage), Rilly-la-Montagne and Chigny-les-Roses (the 2010 and 2012 vintages), and Verzenay (the 2012 vintage). After six years lying in state in Cattier’s subterranean chalk cellars, it has developed the complex aromas of bottle-ageing with sesame and nutty notes – and while it retains the required intensity of berry-fruit freshness and steely brightness, the flavours are enveloped by a decadently rich mousse whose underlying nuttiness and savoury vinosity make it a considerably more serious and sophisticated champagne than the glitzy packaging suggests.
Each of the 3,535 limited edition bottles is inscribed with a number and the disgorgement date on the label. The champagne is available exclusively at Harrods, priced £1,095 per bottle, until mid-November.