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Much Ado About Bubbles

I've remarked here more than once about the oddly strong relationship between rappers and champagne. It's been one of those questions that I'd love to take up with some social anthropologist who has studied the rap and hip-hop subcultures. This week, it seems, hip-hop and bubbly are having a bit of a falling out, however. After a recent article in the Economist discussion the history of this relationship -- in particular the near cult-status of Louis Roederer's "Cristal" champagne in the hip-hop world -- rapper Jay-Z is now calling for a boycott of this champagne, and has already had it pulled from the various nightclubs that he owns.

The upset stems from a quote in the article attributed to Frederic Rouzaud, Managing Director of Roederer after being asked about his feelings regarding his champagne's relationship to the "bling lifestyle": "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 has interpreted this as a racist comment, and apparently the hip-hop community is up in arms about the whole thing.

Now it's not my place to tell people what they should interpret as racist or not, but frankly this seems like a bit of a stretch to me. Of course, it IS clear that Rouzaud finds Cristal's popularity in the hip-hop business puzzling and perhaps unsought for. Perhaps one could even say he might prefer that there wasn't such a strong association. But it's not clear to me that his feelings are racially motivated.

In any case, if I was a regular consumer of the stuff and had written songs about it (which indirectly had led to a definite increase in its sales) and I found out that the company wasn't so hot about that fact, I would certainly be tempted to pull my unofficial endorsement too.

If you ask me, this is simply a case of old world wine establishment running smack into the new demographics of wine drinking. There's gonna be a lot more of this happening in the coming decades, mark my words.

I can't wait to see what happens to sales of Cristal as a result of this. Not that I wish them any misfortune (I happen to think Roederer is good stuff) but I'm perversely curious about what portion of their market share actually IS the bling crowd.

Read the full story.

Thanks to reader Caleb for tipping me off to the story.

Comments (6)

Caleb wrote:
06.16.06 at 4:30 PM

Two quick points of clarification, and then the real thing.
1) i'm intrigued that there's another caleb...and i happened to read this post. amazing.
2) in case you're curious, I was your waiter at Chez Papa several months ago.

That said, I wanted to make a quick point, because I think this so interesting.

While the comment itself may not have been racist in its construction, or literal intent, I think that it really does read, and sound, like someone who would almost be mortified to see a young hip-hop star (and that almost definitely means young and black) drinking their product, were it not for the money it makes for him and not for, say, Krug. And that's a shame. It's not in the least shocking, but it's also part of what makes the world of wine (old establishment or not) look and feel elitist, exclusive and downright unpleasant.

it's part of a larger problem, and a boycott of cristal's really not going to fix it, but at least it's something to think about it...

Melanie wrote:
06.16.06 at 9:51 PM

I have to agree that while Jay-Z's actions were appropriate for that sort of insult, calling them racially motivated was a bit of a stretch. Culturally motivated, perhaps, would have been a better term. I personally feel that people are too quick to throw the racial card around when perceived insults arise...and it annoys me to no end!

Alder wrote:
06.17.06 at 11:54 AM


Thanks for the comments. Good to hear from you! The other Caleb is Caleb Taft, one of the proprietors of Vinum Cellars.

You make some excellent points.

zinFan wrote:
06.19.06 at 1:13 PM

Jay-Z is a sharp student of world culture/trends & is politically astute.

Hip-hop is threatening because it exposes the rage of the underclass and gives them a popular voice that translates into cold hard Dollars and Euros.

I just hope the Cognac industry in the Charentais bite their tongues and learn from this PR fiasco, otherwise Henny and Remi will be singing the blues.

Jean-Louis wrote:
06.21.06 at 10:02 AM

Your inquiry on a possible boycott is interesting. Personally, I do not see it would have much of an effect. He might as well boycott Rolls Royce cars.

10.23.14 at 12:05 AM

Thank you for sharing your thoughts. I really appreciate your efforts and I
am waiting for your next post thanks once again.

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