Grower Champagne can be a minefield of variable quality, but Decanter's Christelle Guibert has picked out five outstanding performers that can be bought for the same price as the big brands...
While we are all familiar with the Champagne brands of the Grandes Marques (think Bollinger, Veuve Clicquot, Taittinger), the quantities they produce demand that they buy in grapes from growers across the region, which is then blended to achieve a house style.
These producers dominate the market, so although there are over 15,000 growers in Champagne, only around a third produce their own Champagnes.
As grower Champagne is made in very small quantities, often coming from just one or a handful of local vineyard sites, it can reflect its terroir much more ably than a large-scale blend. Unlike the Grandes Marques, there is rarely any money spent on advertising, and many will only sell at the cellar door.
These comparatively tiny overheads and modest margins ensure that there are some incredible value grower Champagnes out there.
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Grower Champagne for Christmas:
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How to identify the Champagne you are drinking:
Every bottle of Champagne has a small code on the label that can immediately tell you what you are drinking, although they are no indication of outright quality. The most common are listed below:
Négociant Manipulant – This is used for producers who buy in more than 6% of their grapes, so it is seen on Grandes Marques Champagne and some grower Champagnes.
Récoltant manipulant – Any Champagne that uses a minimum of 95% of its own grapes, the general description of a grower Champagne.
Coopérative Manipulant – A co-op will pool resources from its members and create Champagne under one brand name. These are often found as supermarket own-labels and at the value end of the market.