Grower Champagne is all the rage, but unfamiliar territory compared to the region’s famous houses. Champagne expert Peter Liem shares his guide to the most exciting small estates, and their wines.

Why drink ‘grower Champagne’? For me, good wine is above all an expression of place, and the profundity of that expression often reflects the quality of the viticulture involved. Terroir-expressive Champagne may be guided by practices in the winery, but its character originates in the vineyards.

This may not be exclusive to grower Champagne – after all, there are Champagne houses that take pride in viticulture and vineyard ownership as well, and top négociants who purchase conscientiously can obtain good fruit. But grower Champagne brings these issues more prominently to the foreground, and I appreciate having a more directly traceable link from the wine in my glass to the vineyards that it came from.

10 top grower Champagnes to know

Champagne Tarlant

Producer profile: Tarlant

Region: Vallée de la Marne Village: Oeuilly Grape varieties: Pinot Noir – Chardonnay – Pinot Meunier – Arbanne – Pinot…

Champagne Marc Hebrart

Grower Champagne: Marc Hébrart

Region: Vallée de la Marne, Champagne Village: Mareuil-sur-Aÿ Grape varieties: Pinot Noir – Chardonnay Vineyard area: 15.5 hectares Jean-Paul Hébrart…

Champagne Chartogne Taillet

Grower Champagne: Chartogne-Taillet

Region: Montagne de Reims, Champagne Village: Merfy Grape varieties: Pinot Noir – Chardonnay – Pinot Meunier – Arbanne Vineyard area:…

Benoit Lahaye, Champagne

Producer profile: Benoît Lahaye

Region: Montagne de Reims Village: Merfy Grape varieties: Pinot Noir – Chardonnay Vineyard area: 4.8 hectares A passionate advocate of…

Champagne Vilmart & Cie

Grower Champagne: Vilmart & Cie

Region: Montagne de Reims Village: Bouzy Grape varieties: Chardonnay – Pinot Noir Vineyard area: 11 hectares Grower Champagne might appear…

Grower Champagne

Grower Champagne: Pierre Péters

Region: Côte des Blancs, Champagne Village: Le Mesnil-sur Oger Grape varities: Chardonnay Vineyard area: 20 hectares Rodolphe Péters is a…

Champagne Marie-Courtin

Grower Champagne: Marie-Courtin

Read about Champagne estate Marie-Courtin, for the key facts and wine to try from this organically farmed grower Champagne.

Cedric Bouchard, Roses de Jeanne

Producer profile: Roses de Jeanne

[Image credit: Thomas Iversen Photography] Region: Côtes des Bar, Champagne Village: Landreville Grape varieties: Pinot Noir Vineyard area: 1.5 hectares…

Grower Champagne doesn’t guarantee quality or terroir expression – there are good growers and mediocre growers, just as there are good Champagne houses and mediocre ones. What I find among the best grower Champagnes, though, is a great diversity of style: the most forward-thinking of these small producers can be less constrained by traditional models, allowing them greater latitude to explore stylistic boundaries. Twentieth-century assumptions concerning issues such as ripeness, dosage, vinification and viticulture are all being challenged, and many growers are embracing more narrowly defined concepts of terroir, such as single-cru or single-vineyard Champagnes.

Perhaps more than anything, grower Champagnes encourage us to engage with what’s in the glass, as we do any other wine, asking questions about identity, origins and viticultural practices in ways that we haven’t always done in the past. This has undoubtedly benefited the Champagne region as a whole, changing the ways in which Champagne is being produced, and influencing consumer perceptions about the region and its wines.

While there will always be a place for traditional négociant blends, this is no longer the only valid model for Champagne. The contemporary appellation is more diverse and dynamic, effectively expanding the definition of what Champagne can be.

Resident in Champagne, wine critic Peter Liem runs