Being in the right place at the right time enabled me to attend a Champagne seminar this week featuring wines from French grower producers. Grower producers are just what it sounds like – people who grow their own grapes and make their own wines. As we head into the holiday season, I will spend several weeks on this topic.

Plowing the Vineyards in Merfy, FR

Today, 80% of Champagne is produced by enormous companies that own only 12% of the vineyards.  They may, by law, purchase grapes, pressed juice, or already made sparkling wine in whatever quantities they wish from all over the region.  The wines produced by these conglomerates are manufactured more than crafted and intended to taste the same year after year.  By contrast, the small growers (known as récoltant-manipulants), hand craft their limited quanities of Champagne from grapes grown in individual villages or parcels where the qualities of those vineyards and soils, as well as the RM’s individual style, are imprinted into the wines. 

Knowing which wines are grower produced takes some education and knowing where on the label to find the tiny RM that designates the wine as being prodouced by a récoltant-manipulant.  If you look carefully at the label in this photo, you will see where to look for the RM.

Grower producer Champagnes are not necessarily more expensive.  Some that I recently purchased and will be reviewing over the coming months ranged in price from $35-$63.  All styles of Champagne can be found including tradional Brut, drier Extra Brut (less added sugar, or dosage), rosés, demi-secs (off-dry), and even Champagnes made from less traditional, although allowable, grape varietals.

This topic will continue next week along with some tasting notes.

A santé!