This May Be Why Moët Hennessy Bought Half Of Jay-Z's Champagne Business

Champagne producers took a big hit during the COVID-19 pandemic, but that didn't stop hip-hop artist and billionaire entrepreneur Jay-Z from finding an eager buyer for half of his line of bubbly (via The New York Times). Jay-Z and an executive from the French luxury powerhouse LVMH Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton announced the deal last week: Moët Hennessy was buying half of Jay-Z's Armand de Brignac, more commonly known as Ace of Spades Champagne.

With people buying 18 percent less Champagne in 2020 (via Reuters), it might seem like a time for those in the industry to count their losses rather than look to expand. But Moët Hennessy is optimistic that the Champagne market will rebound quickly, and they believe Jay-Z is an ideal partner to help the stodgy French brand find new customers.

"In your understanding of the world of tomorrow, we believe you created a new consumer for Champagne," Moët Hennessy exec Philippe Schaus told Jay-Z during the announcement of their business deal (via The New York Times). "We have to catch up somehow," Schaus added. "So this relationship will inject us with some better understanding of the market of tomorrow."

Read between the lines however you want, but it seems pretty clear that "market of tomorrow" refers to not only a younger but also a less white customer base. This hasn't always been the attitude of Champagne executives. The bubbly of choice in the hip-hop community, Jay-Z included, was Cristal – until that brand's boss appeared to reject those customers entirely.

Cristal's snub of its hip-hop customers turned out to be prophetic

Back in 2006, The Economist asked Cristal manager Frederic Rouzaud what he thought of his drink's popularity among rappers. His answer fell far short of a warm embrace. "We can't forbid people from buying it," Rouzaud answered (via Business Insider). "I'm sure Dom Pérignon or Krug would be delighted to have their business."

Those fateful — and some have said racist — words turned out to be prophetic. They motivated Jay-Z to start a Cristal boycott and buy a stake in Armand de Brignac. He turned "Ace of Spades" into a new favorite among rappers and sports figures, then bought the entirety of the Champagne line in 2014, according to Business Insider. Now, he's selling half of it to the owners of — you guessed it — Dom Pérignon and Krug.

"For years we have been following the fantastic success of Armand de Brignac and admiring their ability to challenge some of the rules of the Champagne category," Moët Hennessy's Schaus said (via BBC). "Armand de Brignac breaks barriers and reflects contemporary luxury."

What about Cristal? HipHopDX, which has its finger firmly on the pulse of rap culture, declared in 2019 that thanks to Jay-Z, that brand had lost so much clout it was now merely "common." At least, you won't hear rappers working "Cristal" into their rhymes anymore.