• Armand de Brignac Blanc de Noirs Assemblage Number Four

    No Champagne brand has courted such controversy as Armand de Brignac. What’s changed, though, is that lux giant LVMH has bought a 50% stake. Picking up the story is The Buyer’s Victor Smart who hooked up with the team and tasted through the new range, including the new Blanc de Noirs Assemblage Number Four which will first be available from Harrods this Christmas in a boxed set of each of the maison’s cuvées at a cool £6,400.

    No Champagne brand has courted such controversy as Armand de Brignac. What’s changed, though, is that lux giant LVMH has bought a 50% stake. Picking up the story is The Buyer’s Victor Smart who hooked up with the team and tasted through the new range, including the new Blanc de Noirs Assemblage Number Four which will first be available from Harrods this Christmas in a boxed set of each of the maison’s cuvées at a cool £6,400.

    mm By October 28, 2023

    “What’s at stake here is rarity, exclusivity and collectability – and just a small dash of notoriety,” says Smart about the new Blanc de Noirs Assemblage Number Four.

    Armand de Brignac Blanc de Noirs
    Armand de Brignac Blanc de Noirs tasting, Harrods, October 9, 2023

    It’s six years since The Buyer first reviewed Armand de Brignac, noting that not in living memory has a new Champagne courted such controversy. That furore has abated a bit but much of the story remains the same.

    The hip-hop community famously turned its back on Cristal and embraced Armand de Brignac, rapper and music producer Jay-Z (Shawn Carter) eventually buying the company. Each metallic-clad bottle still looks like a prop from the Game of Thrones and the prices remain stratospherically high. The one new twist is that LVMH bought a 50 per cent stake in 2021.

    The question now is, how good are Armand de Brignac’s latest offerings?

    Behind the range of five prestige cuvées (nicknamed the Ace of Spades) is the Cattier family from the Montagne de Reims village of Chigny-les-Roses. Far removed from the world of rap, today they continue to make affordable champagne but started setting aside portions of reserve wines for a new ultra-premium champagne project twenty years ago. The first bottles of Armand de Brignac left their cellars in 2006.

    We are gathered in a small room in the Harrods wine shop to savour their latest efforts. (Each of the wines is ABV 12.5%). First up is the Brut Gold, 50% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Meunier. At £315 a bottle, this is the billionaire’s mid-week tipple. It accounts for four out of five bottles sold. It typifies the house style and is instantly appealing.

    Dosed at 9 g/l, this is fruit-forward, with apricot, peach and a touch of ginger. It is mainly from the 2018 harvest plus reserve wines from 2016 and 2017 with three years on the lees. It is super-approachable and would be perfect as an aperitif.

    For many, the Brut Gold will do just fine. But we move on up to the Blanc de Blancs (£650 a bottle). 100% Chardonnay with a dosage of 8g/l, this has spent five years on the lees and has hints of green apple plus some earthy tones. It comprises 2017, 2016 and 2012 vintages.

    Next up is the Rosé (£500 a bottle), the second biggest seller which accounts for roughly 15% of sales. With a dosage of 8.5 g/l this is 50% Pinot Noir, 40% Pinot Meunier and 10% Chardonnay coming from the 2018, 2017 and 2012 vendages. Fresh and elegant with a lovely balance, there are hints of red fruit such as raspberry and cherry and even some bramble. It deserves a big thumbs up.

    Then on to the Demi-Sec (£400 a bottle). With a dosage of a full 33g/l, this is 50% Pinot Noir, 40% Chardonnay and 10% Pinot Meunier. This wine is not exactly a revelation, but it is terribly good, a real crowd-pleaser. The sweetness really hits you but is balanced by excellent acidity with hints of blueberries and citrus fruits. What plonkers we are to slavishly follow the fashion for dry and ultra-dry sparkling when sweeter wines of this sort of quality are around!

    Armand de Brignac Blanc de Noirs

    Finally, we turn to the star wine, the Blanc de Noirs Assemblage Number Four. The newly unveiled cuvée brings together the 2013, 2014 and 2015 vintages.

    Each bottle is inscribed with its unique number and its disgorgement date of April 20, 2023 after seven years on the lees. The grapes come from premier and grand cru Pinot Noir growing villages, including Chigny-les-Roses, Verzenay, Rilly-la-Montagne, Verzy, Ludes and, for the first time, Ville-sur-Arce from the Aube region. There are only 7,328 bottles available globally and its selling point is its depth and elegance.

    There are hints of red apple, liquorice, blackberry, plum and a touch of honey on the finish. There’s a lovely flinty minerality, a great deal of complexity, a nice freshness and excellent  length. The makers confidently believe that it can be aged for twenty years.

    Armand de Brignac Blanc de Noirs

    Assemblage Number Four will first be available from Harrods this Christmas in a boxed set of each of the maison’s cuvées at £6,400. From next year, it will be available by the bottle at selected retailers priced £1,055.

    I said the only question is, how good are Armand de Brignac’s latest offerings? There is another related question – value for money. Even to consider that question pretty much disqualifies you as a customer, of course. What’s at stake here is rarity, exclusivity and collectability – and just a small dash of notoriety.

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