What is a Grower Champagne?
Grower Champagnes are distinct from the big-name Champagnes seen everywhere. These massive big-name Champagne houses in France, known as Maisons or Grandes Marques, do not grow all their grapes themselves. They may grow some, but it’s not possible for them to grow as many as they need to keep up with production. So instead, they purchase grapes from many other vineyards in a variety of regions so that they may produce millions and millions of bottles of their Champagne a year. To put it in perspective, LMVH, the company that owns numerous Champagnes like Moet et Chandon, Krug, Mercier, Dom Pérignon, and more, produces around 60 million bottles a year. For these major houses, the key is finding an exact method and blend to produce a large quantity of Champagne with a consistent taste throughout. There are around 260 major Champagne houses and they are responsible for over 70% of the Champagne produced today.
Besides the Champagne houses, there are Cooperatives, Coopéative-Manipulant, which will appear on the label of the Champagne as CM. Just like it sounds, this is a partnership between growers and winemakers, but on a somewhat smaller, more involved scale than the major houses of Champagne. These partnerships can look different from village to village, but they allow for smaller operations to continue making a name for themselves in the world of Champagne. For example, someone may have the vineyards to grow grapes but is without the equipment to produce Champagne, so they partner with someone else who does. Sometimes it is the winemaker who is without land or vineyards so they partner with a grower, or with someone who has land where they may grow the grapes themselves.
Now for the Grower Champagnes, Récoltant-Manipulant, some of the most desirable Champagnes in the world. A Grower Champagne is one that is produced by the person who grew the grapes. Sounds simple enough, but truly, to handle the complete Champagne-making process from grape to glass is an immense task, but results in some of the most interesting expressions of sparkling wine. Since the size of these operations is relatively small, the output is usually just a couple thousand bottles a year, with each new vintage tasting completely unique to the year and the wine’s specific terroir. With a Grower Champagne, the grower-winemakers have the power to showcase each harvest’s distinct characteristics and personality.
Vintegrity has a number of exceptional Grower Champagnes in its portfolio, each one worthy of popping open this New Year’s Eve, or really any occasion you wish to toast with bubbly! Keep reading below to learn a little bit more about some of their most popular Grower Champagnes.
Egly-Ouriet is known as one of the founders of the Grower Champagne movement. The winery was established in 1930, but when Francis Egly took over in 1982, he converted to 100% estate bottling. His vineyards, located in Ambonnay, Verzenay, and Bouzy, are all organically-farmed and consist of old vine Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, with the age of the vines averaging 50 years old. The diligent care of the vineyards results in truly ripe grapes, something pretty rare for Champagne production. These Champagnes are praised for their intense complexity and texturally precise structures. Available in Missouri.
Domaine Francis Orban
Francis Orban operates out of Leuvrigny in the famous Marne Valley, where his great-grandfather, Leopold Orban was one of the first growers to arrive in the region. Here, Orban, just like his ancestors before him, focuses heavily on the production of Pinot Meunier grapes, which have historically been deemed as “blending” grapes. In his sandy, clay-rich vineyards, Orban maintains vines with an average age of 30-40 years old, with some as old as 100 years. Orban has used his extensive experience and knowledge to earn Pinot Meuniers new respect in the world of wine. He achieves a new level of depth by adding up to 50% of reserve vintages to his non-vintages, giving his Champagnes rich personalities full of fruity and light spice notes. Available in Missouri.
Domaine Jean Vesselle
The Vesselle family has one of the longest histories of growing Pinot Noir in Bouzy, dating back nearly 300 years. They even own one of the region’s smallest walled vineyards, known as ‘Petit Clos’. The family closely follows organic practices to grow all their grapes, the majority of which are Pinot Noir and utilizes solar energy and recycled rainwater to lower the estate’s energy footprint. Particularly, Vesselle is known for using double fermentation, the first phase taking place in oak barrels and then again in the bottle on the lees (méthode Champenoise), sometimes for as long as 10 years. These Champagnes are powerful and eloquent Bouzy-style expressions. Available in Missouri.
Domaine Michel Turgy
The Turgy family has been growing in Le Mesnil-sur-Oger in the shadows of the other major houses of the Côte de Blancs for 130 years, making them experts at producing quality fruit from the region’s famously chalky terroir. All grapes are harvested by hand and pressed in an old-fashioned upright Champagne press. To create his ultra-sumptuous and sensual wines, Turgy has an incredible collection of vintages in his cellars dating back 2 decades, allowing him great freedom in blending. Available in Missouri.
Located in Mesnil-sur-Oger, Pierre Moncuit produces excellent Chardonnay-driven Champagnes, following in the footsteps of their family who have always been dutifully committed to growing Chardonnay since the first acres were purchased back in 1889. Pierre Moncuit uniquely sticks to just one single vintage for all their bottlings, in an effort to better showcase the characteristics of that growing season. Their Champagnes are aged for long periods of time, but not precise times. It is solely the taste that tells the winemakers when a Champagne is ready. These Grower Champagnes are top picks for their racy, youthful palates and intense minerality. Available in Missouri and Kansas.