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CHAMPAGNE

Jay Z snaps up French Champagne brand

US Hip-hop star Jay Z has shown his fondness for French Champagne brand Armand de Brignac for years and on Wednesday he splashed out and bought the brand.

Jay Z snaps up French Champagne brand
"Don't laugh Jay-Z, I really am going to make a comeback Jay -Z" Jay-Z meets Sark-O at the footy in Paris. Photo: Franck Fife/AFP

Sovereign Brands, a New York-based wine and spirits company which owned the label, said it was selling it to Jay Z for an undisclosed amount.

Armand de Brignac is produced by a staff of eight people at the Cattier family house in the French town of Chigny-les-Roses, with the golden bottles bearing an ace-of-spades insignia.

While the winemaking house was established in 1763, the Armand de Brignac line was launched just in 2006 — the year it was discovered by Jay Z who featured the champagne in his video for 'Show Me What You Got'.

Yvonne Lardner, a spokeswoman for Sovereign Brands, said that the company has had a "wonderful relationship" with Jay Z.

"He became interested in owning the brand and made us an offer we simply couldn't refuse," she said.

"To establish an iconic, credible high-end champagne in such a short period of time is something truly remarkable," she said.

In one high-profile incident, Jay Z brought out a display of 350 bottles of Armand de Brignac in 2012 when he and his wife Beyonce threw a fund-raising party for President Barack Obama at a New York nightclub.

The giant presentation was quickly covered up, with Obama's re-election campaign presumably concerned about the optics of appearing around $300-a-bottle champagne bottles.

The acquisition is the latest business venture for Jay Z, whose original name is Shawn Carter. His past transactions have included a stake that he later sold in the Barclays Center arena in Brooklyn.

Forbes magazine has estimated Jay Z's net worth at $520 million. The magazine said this week that Beyonce was the highest-earning woman in music last year, raking in $115 million.

Jay Z and other rappers have frequently extolled the joys of champagne. Jay-Z's song "Young Forever" envisioned a time in which "you never get old and the champagne's always cold."

But hip-hop's relationship with champagne has not been without difficulty. Louis Roederer's Cristal brand had been a favorite among hip-hop artists, but Jay Z in 2006 called a boycott over comments by an executive he saw as racist.

The executive, who was commenting on hip-hop's association with champagne, denied the charges.

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CHAMPAGNE

French Champagne makers threaten boycott of Russia over ‘sparkling wine’ label

Russian elites could soon find themselves without their favourite French bubbles if Moet Hennessy makes good on a threat to halt champagne supplies following a new law signed by President Vladimir Putin.

French Champagne makers threaten boycott of Russia over 'sparkling wine' label
Russian lawmakers adopted legislation saying the word "champagne" can only be applied to wine produced in Russia. Photo: Alexander NEMENOV / AFP.

Moet Hennessy’s Russia office warned local partners it was suspending supplies after Russian lawmakers adopted legislation stipulating that the word “champagne” can only be applied to wine produced in Russia, while the world-famous tipple from France’s Champagne region should be called “sparkling wine”.

Leonid Rafailov, general director of AST, a top liquor distributor which works with a number of brands including Moet Hennessy, said on Saturday his firm had received a letter from the French company notifying it of the suspension.

“I confirm that such a letter exists, and it is justified,” Rafailov told AFP.

He said that in accordance with the legislation – signed off on by Putin on Friday – the company would have to undergo new registration procedures, among other requirements.

Sebastien Vilmot, Moet Hennessy managing director in Russia, declined to speak to AFP.

But in a statement released through Rafailov, Vilmot called the suspension a “temporary” measure before a solution could be found.

Moet Hennessy is part of French luxury goods group LVMH and known for such brands as Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot and Dom Perignon.

The French are fiercely protective of the term “champagne”, and it can only be made in the French region of the same name.

A copy of Moet Hennessy’s letter was first published on social media on Friday by a representative of a Moscow-based liquor importer and distributor.

Drinks market expert Vadim Drobiz suggested the legislation was open to interpretation but added that Moet Hennessy’s share of the Russian market was relatively small and well-heeled clients could find a replacement.

“If there is no Moet, there won’t be a state coup and Russian elites will not commit suicide,” Drobiz quipped.

But wine consultant Anna Chernyshova questioned the purpose of the amendments. “My phone has been ringing off the hook,” she said. “Me and my clients are thinking what to do next.”

Chernyshova, who helps people build wine collections, said she was not sure why the Russian parliament had passed such a law. “How will they walk back on it?” she told AFP. “So many officials love this champagne.”

Social media was abuzz with jokes, with wits making fun of the latest piece of Russian legislation. “Now it’s necessary to ban Scots and Americans from using the word “whisky”, joked restaurateur Sergei Mironov.

Popular singer Vasya Oblomov said Russian lawmakers could now adopt similar legislation regulating the use of the name “Mercedes” and even place names.

“I thought it was a joke,” wrote Putin’s self-exiled critic Mikhail Khodorkovsky. “I was wrong.”

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