Grower champagne (Small-Scale Producers) comes from small, family-owned champagne houses that produce their champagnes from the same estate that owns the vineyards. While larger champagne houses may use grapes sourced from as many as 80 different vineyards, grower champagnes tend to be more terroir-focused, being sourced from a single, or closely located, vineyard around the same village. They can be identified by the initials RM on the label.
Every year is different so the common criticism of grower champagne is the variable quality from one year to another. Although that may be the case with some growers, some of them make consistently outstanding champagnes. On the other hand, some say that blending grapes from so many different vineyards from the same region by the large champagne houses, makes those champagnes ”underflavoured” and ”non-distinctive”.
The big houses aggressively promote and market their blends that express their ”house style” (creamy, fruity, steely, etc.) which in turn taste the same every time you buy their brand, year after year. Consumers have no knowledge of vintage variations, because the champagne always tastes the same.
Grower champagne, on the other hand, results in a taste that is different and unique, like the grower’s personality. Many of them don’t use the chemical toxins that kill the flora and fauna in the vineyard (organically grown), only use limited amounts of preservatives, no GM material, they prune their vines intensively in order to get smaller yields but better fruit, age their wines 3 or 4 and even up to 7 years to devolop finesse and layers of flavours, use natural or wild yeast no filtration or freezing, no animal claryfing agents and low doses of sugar (because a small amount of added sugar can highlight the terroir characteristics).
Small growers print the disgorgement date at the back of the bottle as well, which the big houses would never do. Each one of them makes their ”personal best” champagne, that sometimes doesn’t go over 3000 bottles, while big champagne houses can produce 2 million bottles. 40% of the champagne that is consumed in France comes from grower champagne (in Australia it is only 2%).
To show how important the expression of their vineyard locality is, some of the champagne growers (Champagne Fleury, Champagne Bedel, Champagne Franck Pascal, Champagne Courtin, and Champagne David Leclapart) belong to the Return to Terroir group which has very strict criteria for their members. More information on this can be found at www.biodynamy.com.
We want to support the winemakers and farmers that actually farm the land they own and live on. We are against champagne being turned into a commodity – an industrialized product. We want to support artisan winemaking, not bulk production. So next time you see a champagne from an unknown producer, from a tiny village that offers distinct, full, terroir taste and has something that is really rare – it is AUTHENTIC! To find out more, browse our website.