Jean-Jacques Cattier has a hit on his hands with his top-of-the-line brand of bubbly, Armand de Brignac.Making Champagne — let alone marketing it in a shiny gold bottle with a large Ace of Spades emblem on it — is not for the fainthearted. But clearly Jean-Jacques Cattier, the CEO of Cattier Champagne, knows what he’s doing. Since launching his Armand de Brignac brand (formally nicknamed Ace of Spades) in 2006, the veteran Champagne maker from Chigny-les-Roses, France, has seen his latest product place first in a prestigious tasting of more than 1,000 brands, star in a Jay-Z video and get hoisted by the Dallas Mavericks and the Boston Bruins to celebrate their respective championships this past June.
As New Year’s revelers prepare to ring in 2012 with bottles of bubbly, we speak with Cattier about what makes his Champagne sparkle.
AMERICAN WAY: Armand de Brignac has deeper roots than most people are aware of.
JEAN-JACQUES CATTIER: My family has been involved in making Champagne for a very long time, and our prestige cuvée, Armand de Brignac, is just the latest chapter. In our village of Chigny-les-Roses, we’ve owned and cultivated vineyards since 1763. For me, entering the family business was a very natural thing to do, as my parents and grandparents were producers too.
AW: Earlier this year, your 30-liter Midas bottle played well at Dallas Mavericks and Boston Bruins victory parties. You also offer a 3-liter Jeroboam, a 6-liter Methuselah and a 15-liter Nebuchadnezzar. Have you started a new trend here?
JJC: Well, who doesn’t like the idea of being a trendsetter? But we’re perfectionists at heart. Projects like this take time, and I can tell you that demand for our largest bottles have well exceeded not just our expectations but our supply. We’re only able to make very few of them. Midas production will continue to remain highly limited.
AW: Is it a surprise to you that your Champagne has become so popular with athletes and cultural figures in addition to top oenophiles?
JJC: I would say it’s a surprise to receive such an overwhelming amount of attention, and certainly a pleasant one. That said, I firmly believe that when you spend time and effort to produce a wonderful product, people will notice.
AW: Are you still a family operation?
JJC: Absolutely. I oversee the production, my son Alexandre is our head winemaker, and it’s really a very small team — just eight craftspeople — for the whole endeavor. That’s been part of the philosophy of Armand de Brignac: to keep this artisanal way of producing a luxury Champagne.
AW: Are there Champagne stereotypes you’d like to dispel, say, that you need to be celebrating New Year’s or an NBA title to enjoy a glass?
JJC: Champagne will always have that association with big events, but I hope no one thinks it can be enjoyed only when one is ringing in the New Year or celebrating a championship. One thing many wine lovers may not know is how versatile Champagne is as a pairing with meals. A normal brut Champagne pairs well with most dishes, and of course there are rosés, blanc de blancs and other styles that can complement many other meals as well. Champagne is quite accommodating.
AW: What makes it such an intrinsically joyful drink?
JJC: It must be the bubbles. There are several million in each bottle!