Celebrities and Champagne have long been a winning combination. In the late 20th and early 21st century, this was borne out by rap artists endorsing prestige cuvées – above all Louis Roederer’s Cristal. By the early 2000s Jay-Z was the first artist to invest rather than just name-drop, investing in Champagne Cattier’s Armand de Brignac brand known as Ace of Spades. It was not until 2019 that Canadian rapper Aubrey “Drake” Graham, who has used the social media handle @champagnepapi for years, decided to get behind his own Champagne brand, putting money into Mod Sélection.
Brent Hocking, founder and CEO of Mod Sélection Champagne in West Hollywood, California, is refreshingly honest when asked about the rap artist’s actual involvement. Drake’s creative input was ‘none’. ‘Drake simply loved the brand and wanted to invest as he saw and tasted the quality.’ But Hocking adds that ‘Drake has loved Champagne since he was old enough to drink.’
The price-tags are hefty with the non-vintage brut releases retailing at £305 at Harrods and at around $210 in the US; the rosé retails for $270-$300; the blanc de blancs and blanc de noirs for $430; the 2008 vintage wines for around $500. This makes them more expensive than Dom Pérignon or Cristal and puts the more expensive cuvées in the same price bracket as such iconic and rare bottlings as, for example, Bollinger’s Vieilles Vignes Françaises.
The bottles are suitably blingy with coppery metallic coating, embossed labels and packaging that is distinctly over the top and clearly not designed with sustainability front of mind.
Focus on Pinot Meunier
The house that makes the Champagne is Pierre Mignon, founded in 1892 and based in the Marne Valley. It has its own vineyards but also buys in grapes, ensuring ‘the best selection, quality and consistency at each and every harvest,’ says Hocking. ‘It’s 100% about the juice.’
The prices are daring for Champagnes that give merely a regional origin (rather than a single-vineyard origin) and rely heavily on Pinot Meunier. Hocking says the heavy Meunier content is ‘appreciated for the balance and brightness it lends to our signature house style.’ He is quick to reference the variety’s use by a famous house: ‘Our experience drives our selection typically to emphasise Pinot Meunier like our neighbours at Krug who have long championed an emphasis on Pinot Meunier.’
Six different wines were released with a total volume of 50,000 bottles, but there is ‘capacity to increase as needed’. The wines are beautiful, each with their own personality, but do not really warrant their price-tags. With UK distribution still to be fully rolled out, the fact that so far only the NV brut is sold in Harrods – with some of the other wines at Novikov, Annabel’s and Coya in London’s Mayfair district – tells you all you need to know.