What does Champagne mean to you? To many of us, popping a bottle implies festivals, celebrations, graduations, birthdays or weddings. From the food pairing perspective, Champagne is also a master key to pair with most items, from entrée, main dish, snacks to afternoon tea. F. Scott Fitzgerald once said “Too much of anything is bad, but too much champagne is just right.” But when it comes to purchasing this luxury product, do we understand what we are paying for?
Houses, Cooperatives and Growers: What’s the difference?
Champagne is only from the Champagne region. Within the region there are three types of producers: Houses, Coopératives and Growers. Champagne Houses usually lead the market demand, some of them have their own vineyards but the majority of their grapes are supplied by local growers to meet with the excessive production demand. They blend grapes from around the sub-region and different vintages for their house champagne, buyers can easily find these styles in brands such as Moet & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot and Laurent- Perrier.Grower Champagne producers on the other hand, own vineyards and have the ability to make the champagne with their own hands by planting, cultivating and harvesting grapes.However not many of them make their own champagne. In fact, only 25% of the grape growers produce Champagne, and Grower Champagne only accounted for about 18% of total production in Champagne region. The rest of them will sell their grapes to Champagne
houses and Coopératives.
What’s so special about Grower Champagne?
There is a reason why Grower Champagne is often described as artisanal Champagne. While Grower Champagne houses are mostly family inheritance, their grapes are sourced from single vineyard or vineyard sites near the production house and tend to be more ‘terroir-focused’. As a result, Grower Champagne usually leaves a strong note that hint the character of their origins. Terroir-driven Grower Champagnes possess a unique style while the general Champagne Houses produce more consistent, identifiable and uniform style.
Larmandier-Bernier is one of the leaders of the ‘grower’ Champagne movement. Even they have tiny production but they preach authenticity, they believe to entails respecting the terroir of each plot of vines. They bottle their champagne from particular plots in the villages with individual terroir and blend with different terroirs within the region. Growers work with the same parcels every year and the grapes are always susceptible to a specific vintage’s climate and weather conditions. This subtle difference is what makes their Champagne all the more attractive and characterful.
Vilmart & Cie
Beside focusing on the terrior, some of the Grower Champagne are also focus on wine-making technique to create their uniqueness. Vilmart & Cie, the nickname as ‘Mini Krug’ in the market, crafts elegant Champagnes of the highest quality level. Organic viticulture, super low yields with remarkable purity of fruit, fermenting and aging in oak for a while. They believe all those practices are the most effective way means of developing a full spectrum of aroma, taste and texture.
Egly-Ouriet is the cult Champagne house who crave the power and finesse of Pinot Noir-based wines. The vineyards located in Ambonnay sub-region. The based wines reflect a unmistakable sense of richness from the high percentage of red grapes, Burgundian-inspired vinification and long aging on the lees.The house selects the perfectly ripe grapes and aging the wines in barrel for longer than almost any other Champagne house are some practices that set his art apart from the rest. As a result, Egly-Ouriet is age-worthy, one of the powerful, concentrated, and expressive Pinot Noir- based Champagne.
Jacques Selosse, as a pioneer champagne grower who introduced healthy farming to the Champagne region. Tiny growing area with low yields, labor-intensive organic viticulture for chemical-free vineyards, resulting in very limited production. Wine makers adopt innovative vinification techniques that include fermentation by using indigenous yeasts, based wine undergoes bâtonnage. Before the champagne is released into the market, it usually requires several years extra post-disgorgement cellarage to show the full potential, that’s causing high prices for Jacques Selosse Champagne Champagne has much more to offer than just a celebration prop or luxury product. The unique attentiveness and inheritance of craftsmanship from growers could be priceless and treasurable. Each grower champagne have their characteristic and unique style, lets explore the marvelous growers of Champagne together!