File this under “Don’t Drink the Kool-Aid” lest the Champagne industry make more fools of us than it already has. For decades, ad agencies have had their fun with us, knowing that most Americans see Champagne as a luxury, exclusively celebratory beverage, and using that knowledge to their 401K’s advantage by marketing it as such. The inflated prices we pay for most conglomerate-owned Champagne is much more a reflection of its advertising budgets than its winemaking. For the last couple of years I’ve been more enthusiastic about Champagne’s foothold in this country simply because more and more quality Grower Champagne (farmer fizz) has been making its way onto our store shelves, slowly but surely giving its neighboring bottle of factory-streamlined, overpriced swill the old disco bump. But I should have known better because corporate mentality never knows how to go gently into that good night. Quite the contrary, they come back stronger and harder, with just about the most pretentious, hurl-worthy bottle of bubbles ever.
I humbly submit for your entertainment, Beau Joie…a new luxury Champagne launching in Vegas this month. Not to be outdone by Cristal, Dom or that blasted widow Clicquot, a bottle of Beau Joie (pronounced “you are a gullible jackass”), which has the slogan of Tonight’s the Knight comes encased in a 100% copper, hand-crafted suit of mother-fucking armor. They’re pitching that the “suit of armor” is meant to both keep the Champagne colder longer and provide a better grip, but I’d honestly have more respect for the bastards if they’d simply called a spade a spade and admit that they are trying to reclaim the perception of luxury that Americans have had towards bubbles for so long. While some old cronies are now bottling a “single vineyard” Champagne to compete the with farmer fizz, BJ (oooh, how appropriate the monogram) is taking the other fork in the road, coming back gaudier than ever, banking on the fact that we like to feel like we are spoiling ourselves when we buy a bottle of bubbles. And that’s fine…do whatever you need to do to gain back that 2% marketshare so you can sleep at night…just don’t tell me this masquerade is an effort to better control temperature and pouring, cuz I’ll call bullshit.
And just as I’m thinking all of this, Jon Deitelbaum (President and CEO of Toast Spirits, peddler of the Champagne) at the very least had the balls to say, “BEAU is a statement-making luxury champagne unlike anything previously available. Infusing qualities like romance, chivalry and fun into a stagnant champagne category, BEAU presents consumers an unparalleled luxury experience. The allure and sexiness of the product is unmistakable, and its price point delivers obtainable luxury. When you order a bottle of BEAU, expect heads to turn.” There you have it. You, my friend, are being sold the bridge of bridges for the substantial suggested price tag of $80. Jon doesn’t want you to buy this wine because it tastes any good. Quite the contrary, the guy doesn’t mention a damned thing about how it’s made or what it tastes like. He wants you to fork over the bones for an improved (yet false) sense of self worth…for a futile attempt at image boosting…for the chance at getting lucky on a first date…for anything but the wine itself.
The saddest truth is not that a product like this exists, but that it wouldn’t exist if there weren’t an interest in such a product in the first place. While dozens of grape growers and winemakers are placing an unprecedented focus on quality, hand-crafted Champagne at a price that reflects craft over commodity, the big boys continue to sell us luxury. But they don’t sell it to us as a wine, they sell it to us as an idea…as an emotion. They tell us bubbles are for special occasions, thus justifying the overblown price tag, and many of us swallow that whole. I, on the other hand, drink bubbles weekly…for me, a “special occasion” is paramount to finding a dollar in my freshly washed jeans or surviving PMS. I’m not about to spend $80 on an ego boost, but then again I’ve never been very good at being anyone’s target market.