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Fine Wine and Vintage Flows: How Jay-Z Changed Champagne Culture

For 25 years, rapper Jay-Z shaped Champagne culture and commerce in the U.S. On his 1996 single, “22 Twos,” off his debut album, Reasonable Doubt, host Maria Davis tells the young rapper to “put that Champagne down and kick a little freestyle.” In the years since, he’s only ever heeded the second part.

Of course, Jay-Z wasn’t drinking alone. Historians believe Harlem emcee Branson B. introduced Champagne to 1990s hip hop parties, and Dom Perignon and Moët & Chandon were early fixtures.

A 1995 Raekwon lyric is said to be rap’s first mention of Cristal, a brand with its own complicated legacy in hip hop.

But Jay-Z literally and figuratively made Champagne his own.

In 2006, a bottle of Armand de Brignac, a Champagne nicknamed Ace of Spades and new to the U.S. market, made a cameo in a metal briefcase in Jay-Z’s “Show Me What You Got” video. He rapped about the brand in subsequent tracks and brought bottles to events.

Suddenly, a Champagne no one had heard of was all anyone could talk about. Restaurateur Kyle O’Brien recalls how tourists would order “the briefcase Champagne” at Manhattan nightclub, Hotel Chantelle, in the late aughts.

Industry sources disagree whether Jay-Z had a financial stake in Ace of Spades from the start, but in 2014, he bought the company outright.

It set a precedent for other artists like Mary J. Blige, Raekwon and Post Malone to work with wineries.

“Nowadays there are so many celebrities involved in brands. Jay-Z was a pioneer,” says Steven Gonzalez, bartender at Park Hyatt New York.

It created an access point for drinkers, too.

“These were markets that big companies weren’t looking at,” food scholar Nia-Raquelle Smith says of hip hop fans, particularly Black consumers. “Jay-Z becoming one of the first higher-end Champagne owners opens so many doors for the consumer. It lets people know, ‘It is possible. We can do this.’ ”

Bars for the Bar

Here are five of our favorite lyrical tributes to wine, from other rappers.

“I sip the Dom P. watching Gandhi til I’m changed.” —Nas, “The World is Yours,” 1994

“Back of the club sipping Moët is where you’ll find me.” —Notorious B.I.G., “Big Poppa,” 1994

“Still over in Brazil sippin’ Moscato you must’ve forgot though.” —Lil’ Kim, “Lighters Up,” 2005

“It’s a celebration, clap-clap, bravo, lobster and shrimp and a glass of Moscato.” —Drake, “Do It Now,” 2009

“When things get hard to swallow, we need a bottle of Moscato.” —Ab-Soul featuring Kendrick Lamar, “Moscato,” 2011