A good friend of mine has told me on innumerable occasions that “Champagne is the only drink that is socially acceptable to drink any time of day” I heartily agree!
This month the French #Winophiles, a group of wine writers that explore French wine, food and travel the third Saturday of every month, will be exploring grower champagne!
I think this bit of context is helpful in understanding the dynamics between growers and producers in Champagne.
There are over 15,000 growers who own 90% of the land, but only 320 Houses make 90% of the wine exported (⅔ of the Champagne produced). These large Houses that make the well-known brands (Veuve Clicquot, Bollinger, etc.) might grow some grapes, but also purchase grapes from hundreds of tiny vineyards all over the region. Today, of the 15,000 farmers, about 5,000 of them produce their own Grower Champagne, and only about 300 are available in the US. The reason growers didn’t make more Champagne through history was because the equipment, know-how, manpower, and the necessity for large cellars made it prohibitive for small growers to make Champagne. (Source)
Here’s a quick grower Champagne Q &A
What is a grower champagne?
- A grower who makes and markets champagne under their own label, from grapes exclusively sourced from their own vineyards and processed on their own premises is known as Recoltant Manipulant, the French term for producer of grower champagne. If a producer chooses to purchase more than 5% of their grapes or wine, they would fall under another category, the Negociant Manipulant.
How do you identify a grower champagne?
- Every champagne label must contain the register code of the producer, typically in very small print, which must be preceded by a two letter code. The most common codes are RM, NM, or CM. RM is what you should look for a Grower Champagne, NM is the Negociant House (think Veuve Clicquot) , and a CM is a Cooperative Producer.
Is grower champagne better than champagne produced by the larger Champagne houses?
It’s currently fashionable to embrace grower Champagne, especially among sommeliers, but it’s a fallacy to say that it’s intrinsically better than négociant Champagne produced by large champagne houses.
Why are grower champagnes fun to taste?
A grower often owns land in one village or from a single terroir, so when you taste those Champagnes, you can taste how that one village is different from a neighboring one. There are also more single varietal Champagnes that are focusing on one of the 3 grapes (i.e. Blanc de Blancs or Blanc de Noir), whereas a large producer usually blends all three grapes from vineyards all across the region. Also, since RMs aren’t under pressure to sell boatloads of product, there is more room for experimentation and make terroir driven choices.
Does grower champagne cost less than champagne produced by large houses?
Like all things Human Resource, and wine related it seems, the answer is “It depends” You can certainly find grower champagne that offer tremendous value, but some of the most renown can be as prohibitively expensive as their large house counterparts.
Join Our French Winophiles As We Sip Grower Champagne!
We’re a friendly group. Please consider joining the fun as we sip, and tweet about Grower Champagne. If you have a blog and would like to participate, just send me an email at email@example.com. I’ll be looking for blog post titles no later than Tuesday, August 14th. We post mid day on August 17th through early morning (no later than 8a ET/5a PT) Saturday August 18th; and chat on Twitter at #winophiles from 10-11am CDT on Saturday, August 18th.
Even if you don’t have a blog, feel free to grab a glass of Grower Champagne (it’s never too early to drink Champagne, Grower or otherwise is it?) and join the conversation. Have you visited the the Champagne region and visited a grower? Do you have a favorite Grower Champagne. How about a favorite wine and food pairing featuring Grower Champagne?
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