Grower Champagnes - What are they and why are they better than the rest?
(With acknowledgments to many words on the subject I have lifted...)
As Madame Bollinger (1884 - 1977) said;
"I drink it when I'm happy and when I'm sad. Sometimes, I drink it when I'm alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I'm not hungry and drink it if I am; Otherwise, I never touch it - unless I'm thirsty."
What exactly is "Grower Champagne"? Well, Champagne is more than just one product - there is the mass-produced industrial version, made in factories by the big Champagne houses - the "Grandes Marques" - and there is "Grower Champagne" - the stuff made by small family producers, which offers character, individuality, and the influence of terroir, something the big boys, through their process of blending, have lost to their holy grails of consistency and corporate image.
So, Grower Champagnes represent exactly the ethos of The Real Wine Company - pay for the wine not the badge. Krug is a great wine (see Daily Telegraph article), no question, but so it should be at £125 a bottle. Nice to see it edged into second place by our very own Marc Chauvet Selection in a blind tasting carried out by Jamie Goode, The Wine Anorak and Sunday Express Wine Columnist. Watch video here. (fast forward to 15 minutes for the results).
Jancis Robinson's article shows how to spot a Grower Champagne from a big blend by reading the label.
...and I've been banging on about the con of the "half-price" Champagne deals in Mark's Blog.
Please do call me free on 0800 0322 992 anytime to discuss more.
A few Champagne facts from the CIVC's 2010 bulletin;
33,344 hectares are planted, of which:
23,897 in the Marne department
7,025 in the departments of the Aube and Haute-Marne
2,422 in the departments of the Aisne and Seine-et-Marne
4,776 of the more than 15,000 grape growers make their own and sell directly (Grower Champagnes). The rest sell their grapes to the 66 cooperatives and 261 Champagne Houses
Annual production is approximately 315 million bottles.
Top 10 export markets 2010
1. UNITED KINGDOM 35,488,401 bottles .... what is our love affair with Champagne?
2. UNITED STATES 16,934,242
3. GERMANY 13,076,153
4. BELGIUM 8,806,008
5. ITALY 7,183,113
6. JAPAN 7,464,935
7. SWITZERLAND 5,442,295
8. SPAIN 3,689,307
9. AUSTRALIA 3,687,140
10. NETHERLANDS 2,474,876
The French drink most of the stuff themselves and over 35% of what they drink is Grower Champagnes - keep the best for themselves, eh?!
Here in UK only 1.4% of what we drink is Grower Champagnes, so it's a real hidden secret and should be boasted about when served. Just think of the one-upmanship of serving a bottle of £125-Krug-beating Marc Chauvet Selection which has cost only £24.99 when someone else has brought one of the annual 24 million bottles of Moet & Chandon for about the same price! "Oh, it's just a small Grower Champagne I've found... .Yes, 60 months on the lees before release rather than the legal 15 month minimum." (Call me free on 0800 0322 992 to explain what that means and more!)
The 261 Houses (known as negociant-manipulants) own only 12% of the vineyards but they are responsible for over 70% of all Champagne sales. The Houses account for over 88% of all Champagne exports and this number rises to 97% of exports outside of Europe. Just 97 houses account for more than 95% of total negociant sales. Of these 97 houses, 10 account for 55% and one, Moet & Chandon, produces more than 13% of all negociant-manipulant Champagne (2 million cases in annual production; 200,000 of which is Dom Perignon).
These 261 Houses sell Champagne under 1,316 different brand names... .I could go on.
The whole subject of how the different qualities are produced and why Marc Chauvet is so much better - that will have to wait for a quiet period next year.