What to drink now: Grower champagne

Don’t get me wrong: I love champagne house sparking wines. The big brands like Moet & Chandon, Bollinger and Salon consistently produce outstanding champagnes that I enjoy. We all count on them for that special occasion.

But what if you are in the mood for something a bit more “artisanal” with a more individual style?

Maybe the occasion is a Monday evening at home with your feet up? For me, this is when I reach for grower champagne.

What is grower champagne?

Because of French inheritance laws, with each generation wine estates and grape acreage decreases as land is divided up among siblings. Many growers simply don’t have the grape production capability to produce their own wines. The majority of growers sell their grapes to cooperatives or large champagne houses that blend them into their reliable “house style” that’s repeated yearly. The vast majority of champagne reaching our shores was produced from as many as 1,000 vineyards.

Some small vineyard owners within the Champagne region do produce enough quality grapes to produce their own grower champagne. Their grapes are exclusively sourced form their own vineyards, processed on their own premises and marketed under their own labels. Because their grapes come from small parcels of land, they are blended in small lots and, in my opinion, end up being more terroir driven.

Grower champagne tends to be released younger and at a lower costs, typically 10-20 percent less expensive than better known houses, but that is narrowing as grower champagnes are increasing in popularity, especially in the United States.

How do you know you have grower champagne? Look for the French designation on the label, including the initials RM (Récoltant-Manipulant), often in small print toward the bottom.

The grower champagne I’m currently enjoying

I’m enjoying Voirin-Jumel Grand Cru, Blanc de Blanc NV.

With a pronounced buttered toasted brioche nose and a grapefruit and crisp green apple finish, this champagne pairs very well with grilled octopus, steamed mussels and on its own as an aperitif.

Give grower champagne a try. I think you will definitely enjoy it.

À la prochaine!

Bistro Menil Chef Greg Martin

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