We all know Champagne as one of the most prized and collectible wines in the world. While the most prized bottles from, say, Burgundy are crafted to be precise expressions of a single terroir, Winemaking in Champagne traditionally has been very much a blender’s art. Major houses such as Veuve Cliquot, Taittinger, Louis Roederer and many others combine fruit from their own vineyards with fruit sourced from growers all over the region over which they exercise varying degrees of control, combining all these to craft a reproducible and distinctive “house style”.
Increasingly prominent, however, are what are called “grower-producer” Champagnes: wines made by small firms that harvest from their own vines and then proceed to make their own wines, sold under their own label. These wines are qualified to bear the abbreviation “RM”, standing for Récoltant-Manipulant, on the label, sign of the personal relationship the growers (who, after all, are artisans as well as farmers) have with their vines and with the wine.
Small independent producers are very important to us here at Astor Wines & Spirits, and Champagne is no exception. We are proud to offer a comprehensive selection of grower Champagnes, rivaling any other store in the city. In fact, with nearly sixty of these hand-crafted wines gracing our shelves, if you can find a greater assortment elsewhere, I’d be surprised, and I’d certainly like to hear about it.
Here’s just a few of the many reasons your next bottle of Champagne should be from a grower:
1. A grower-producer grows his own fruit, makes the wine, bottles it, and then sells it. The grower trades on his own name; he cannot hide lackluster fruit behind a famous brand. His reputation is, therefore, a more transparent indicator of quality.
2. Grower Champagne admits of a wide range of styles. There is a grower Champagne for every Champagne lover. Fresh and intense red berry aromas dominate the Pinot Meunier-based wines of Michel Loriot. Voirin-Jumel do wonders with chalky, creamy Chardonnay. Oenophiles can geek out over solera-aged wines like Henri Billot’s Cuvee Laetitia, and for those who like a dense, rich style and don’t mind the occasional touch of oak influence, there is always my personal favorite, Vilmart.
3. Grower Champagnes tend to be more terroir-expressive. It is important to note that single-terroir and grower Champagnes are not synonymous. Grower-producers, however, by virtue of necessity, are often only working with vines in a particular subregion or village. Some, like Cedric Bouchard, take this concept to the logical extreme; Bouchard’s wines are all from a single vintage, a single grape variety, and are labelled with the lieu-dit, or vineyard site, of origin.
4. By drinking grower Champagne, you are making the world a better place. You are supporting small-scale, sustainable agriculture, artisan winemaking, and basically everything else that is good and wholesome in the world.