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06.16.2006

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.

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