Champagne drug ‘Cristale Meth’ sweeps Europe

Pic: Matthew T Rader

Police forces across Europe have warned of a deadly new wine-based drug sweeping the continent.

‘Cristale Meth is colourless, addictive, good with oysters… and deadly,’ warned French chief of police Don Perignon.

The new drug – unrelated to the famous Roederer wine – also goes by the nicknames ‘pop’, ‘fizz’ and ‘prestige cuvée’ and is usually smoked, though it can also be snorted, injected and, in its purest form, drunk from a flute. Users speak of a state of euphoria, increased libido and a heightened yearning for tweed.

‘That mix of dopamine rush, sexual arousal and herringbone twill is a unique high,’ said Polly Roger of the drugs charity Action on Addiction. ‘People get hooked after their first hit.’

According to Roger, as many as one in ten French people could already be classified as ‘fizz dependent’. Significantly, stores all across France have sold out of Harris shooting jackets.

Tweed: a big part of ‘cave culture’

The new drug’s highs might be exuberant, but the mousse wears off quickly, leaving users flat, depressed and unbalanced. Some call this the ‘good with food’ phase, but withdrawal – the period between hits – can be long and brutal, with addicts thirsty, agitated and craving plates of goose rillette.

Big bottle, little bottle…

The drug first appeared amid the pupitres of Champagne’s underground cave scene, where cellar workers would gather for hours in the darkness to take drugs, compare dosage and do riddling. It spawned the now infamous ‘big bottle, little bottle, cardboard box’ dance.

But as cave culture has gone mainstream, so has the drug. Cristale Meth has since spread into bars, restaurants and merchants all over Europe.

‘Like rap music and Pinot Grigio it’s just become completely normalised,’ said police chief Perignon. ‘God knows where it will all end. Probably with it being used in cocktails.’

Cristale Meth is made by ‘cooking’ champagne to increase its strength and then adding yeast, baking powder and battery acid. Critics have described it, variously, as ‘like smoking fizzy bread’, ‘a croissant dipped in lemon juice’ and ‘a lot like basic non-vintage’.

But with huge profits on offer unscrupulous operators will often ‘cut’ their cook with inferior products in search of a better margin – and that’s making an already dangerous drug potentially fatal.

One batch of meth that had been diluted with cheap cava hit the streets of Marseille earlier this year and caused over 200 people to completely lose the will to live.

‘People don’t realise,’ said Action on Addiction’s Roger. ‘They think Cristale Meth is just a bit of harmless fun that they can pick up and put down at any time. But there are powerful gangs earning big money who want to keep them hooked. Some of the stuff they’re selling has barely been aged and has literally no residual sugar. 

‘Whichever way you look at it, it’s properly dangerous.’