Grower Champagne

I am a complete novice in grower Champagne. I read an interesting thread on price increases and an earlier thread (dry jan reading!) where even the TWA journalist chimes in.

I’d be keen on trying the odd bottle, just to know if it’s my thing or not and whether I should take an interest. What are the various sample points one needs to try before deciding they do/don’t like them?

There is a lot of lamentation on rising prices, particularly Ulysse Collin which was available on vinissimus for £60 but is now £472

It seems as if the sector is nascent and consistency & price discovery in some of the newer growers is yet to be determined.

Nearly all of these producers were unknown to me prior to reading. Does anyone have any tips, buying recommendations?

Aube

This region seems to be of interest. Centred on the Medieval city of Troyes, and well on the way to Burgundy, the Aube is a completely autonomous area, its Champagnes shaped by the distinctive clay limestone soils and , of course by the warmer microclimate.

Stratospheric Brands or Going Stratospheric (boat has sailed)

Selosse £600

Prevost £300

Bouchard £400

Ulysse Collin - Used to be ~ £60 say at Vinissimus has gone a bit stratospheric £472

Flagged as interesting

Egly Ouriet £53

George Remy £60

La Borderie from £48

Guillaume Sergent £50

Gerbais at TWS at £34

Charles Heidsieck Reserve at TWS at £46

Vilmart (used to be at TWS) available at Waitrose for £48

Bruno Paillard at £45

Also listed

Laherte
Larmandier-Bernier
Diebolt Valois
Hebrart
Dehu
Gonet
Chartogne-Taillet
Dehours
Sergent
Courtin

TWS

Champagne Jeaunaux-Robin Talus-Saint-Prix Brut NV
Pierre Paillard

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This is excellent if you haven’t tried.
I’m no expert but to me is down to personal taste. I like the idea that grapes are gown in the domaine and vinification happens a few meters away. I think that the producer has a higher attention to the actual grapes all year around compared to champagne houses that buy grapes from growers. Some growers still buy in a percentage of grapes and usually harvest the majority from their estates ( not sure if these are classed strictly as grower champagnes).
I would highly recommend Bruno Paillard wines

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https://www.thewinesociety.com/product/champagne-jeaunaux-robin-talus-saint-prix-brut-nv

A shout out for this one. Had a few bottles now and consistently enjoyable. Last tried alongside a Bollinger NV and it was comfortably the better wine.
Also unlike much of champagne they arent blasting their vines with pesticides so you can feel virtuous as you drink.

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Same last name, I also like the Pierre Palliard champagnes. They’re often stocked by TWS. TWS usually have a grower champagne case, which is worth a punt. I’ve also recently enjoyed Champagne Fluery, who start at about 40€ for their basic cuvees (and have several really interesting aged fizz at not too eye-watering prices). I am also a fan of Bereche. I’ve tried a few of their fancier ones too, but always go back to their NV as being far better than the higher end ones.

Big champagne is all about homogeneity. Keeping the house style year-on-year, and marketing it. This is OK, and there are several big champagne houses who I really enjoy. Grower champagne gives contrast to that, even though to a degree it’s about maintaining house style, they give a wider variation in house styles and have a wider variation in bottlings (back to the Pierre Pailliard tells you which vintage the base wine in the name of their champagne via the roman numeral). Also they’re more likely to do interesting things with more/less dosage than the big champagne houses. Generally grower champagnes for me (hipster points aside) are about more variation.

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I loved Chartogne-Taillet and am disappointed the society delisted it.

My mum’s favourite was Vilmart which is unavailable but might come back?

Both around £30 last time I bought them. I saw a post on another forum recently about how some producers are now charging those obscene prices, mind boggles.

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Sometimes available via Waitrose Cellar.

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Be curious to see it if you have a link? Thanks! Not by any chance the same post that triggered this thread?

Looks still available

Personal opinion coming up!!

I regard champagne to be similar to soap powder. Pick the one you like and which does the best job for you! Of course it means trying a few out first. To me there are two very ‘basic’ styles of champagne (1. breadcrumb, yeasty biscuity, buttery heavier styles and 2. Lemony, citrus, lean, crisp etc etc styles).

Of course these aren’t the sort of characteristics that you may readily read in the MW notes etc but to me they make sense.

My personal favourite (if funds allow) is Ruinart (style 1.) and if funds do not allow a basic Perrier Jouet!

Have fun trying. There are some Grower champagnes that fit these basic criteria but much research (sampling) is required. Best to get in the car and do a toll around Reims/Epernay region.

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Agree, both on the division of champagne types and your favoured grand marque champagnes. While I am not driving the region to do it, I do enjoy the exploring. If you’d like an excellent style 1 grower champagne, I definitely re-recommend the Bereche et Fils Brut NV, although as with all things, it’s nothing like as cheap as it used to be.

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I think it was a thread on Wine Berserkers, but I may have been confused and it was about natural champagne rather than grower, although I’m guessing most if not all natural is grower?

I was surprised by the prices thrown around, but then that forums average bottle price is far higher than ours on here and I guess smaller scale champagne is going to cost a lot more with the transport costs etc compared to here.

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Also worth a mention (imho) are Agrapart & Fils, and Marguet Shaman, both of which I think have previously appeared on TWS in the past. Jacques Lassaigne is another.

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Personally I completely disagree with the suggestion that you can just pick one Champagne, or that its categories are few in number. I do agree that grower Champagne offers more points of difference, both in terms of vintage, cepage and vineyard, although some of the houses are taking a similar approach (e.g. Bollinger with their PN series).

I don’t think TWS is brilliant for grower Champagne, although it’s an excellent source of one of my good-value standbys, the Lahaye Brut Nature, which for my palate is better than most grand marque NVs, and cheaper. If you want to explore, I suggest looking at Sip Champagnes, Vine Trail, Lea & Sandeman or even the Whisky Exchange. A few widely available and reliable growers:

  • Egly
  • Bereche
  • Lahaye
  • Laherte
  • Pierre Peters
  • Vilmart
  • Agrapart
  • Larmandier-Bernier
  • Vouette et Sorbe

Apart from Egly (to some extent), all of these are still relatively affordable, although that might not last given what’s happening to the Champagne market!

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I was going to suggest Vine Traill too. They have a really great list of grower Champagne and you can buy from them as a retail customer (as long as you buy 12 bottles+ at a time, I think).

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Personally I completely disagree with the suggestion that you can just pick one Champagne, or that its categories are few in number.

Yes, from what I’m reading that’s the impression I got for Grower Champagnes (beware the opinion of the novice here!)

Perhaps the advice better applies to the established Champagne houses, with which I’d agree. Consistency and style is well established there.

(1. breadcrumb, yeasty biscuity, buttery heavier styles and 2. Lemony, citrus, lean, crisp etc etc styles).

I think this is probably a good first component of champagne style division.

Others from what I read could be

  • grape blend percentages
  • vin perpetuelle system or specific vintage
  • barrel/foudres fermentation (or not)
  • lees periods
  • no centrifuging and less filtering
  • vine age
  • grand/premier cru fruit
  • dosage grams per liter
  • a more terroir driven approach
    a) parcel vinification
    b) lieu-dit bottlings
  • more attentive viticulture (a vigneron mentality as opposed to a productivity-driven mentality) yields?
  • ageing propensity

Other things of interest include

Coteaux still wines of Champagne. A sort of worse QPR version of Burgundy than Burgundy :slight_smile: Perhaps grower Champagne is becoming more of interest now that Burgundy prices have sailed out of sight

Would be great to have a resource that groups producers according to similar styles like this Barolo producer categorisation. However, some of the growers seem to be radically changing their style year to year.

Some interesting quotes

“Egly is adamant that acidity is not fundamental, and almost always sufficient, while bitterness is always fatal.”

“The grower champagne scene cannot be compared with Burgundy, it is extremely embryonic and very few producers have really solid track records, there is lots of potential and we will be much cleverer in ten years as to who makes it and who does not.”

"The one thing I take from tasting champagnes is that the differences are not as big as one might imagine. "

“With the style change they said this was to adapt to climate change and that they would keep their options open in the future about releasing vintages.” - in respect to “vin perpetuelle system or specific vintage”

I think next month, I’ll seek out a few examples and taste to get a better idea on what the fuss is about :slight_smile:

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… and Pinot Blanc, too…

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A vote here for Pierre as well FWIW.

Stood out to me in my first mixed case of Grower Champagne via TWS at <£150/cs (for the mixed case) which I thought very good value.
Have since bought another Grower mixed a while ago which I think was £155? Not tried any of those yet tho.

Waited for the Pierre Paillard XVIII to crop up on the list and snagged at £175/cs

Ticks my boxes - ripe PN fruit which is 70% of the blend, 0% Meunier, rich style, low dosage, excellent vintage as the base, cheaper or more interesting than the stuff you see on supermarket shelves. And superficially, I really like the Grand Cru name of Bouzy - sounds just like me! :woozy_face:

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Excellent thread - subscribed!

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I drink a lot of Champagne, too much in fact.
My grower choices tend to be dictated by grape variety used, so it follows that if I want a blanc de blancs it is highly likely that the grower will be from the Cote de Blanc. If I fancy trying a Meunier dominated wine then the grower will be probably be located in the Marne valley. And so on. So I focus on sub region location.
I don’t buy into the terroir philosophy because there are simply far too many winemaking variables. Types of oak used, age of barrel, size of barrel, mix of barrels and at what stage oak is used. Same applies to yeasts. A strong commercial yeast is needed for the second fermentation. Then MLF, is MLF partial or not is a practice growers debate. Then we have length of times on lees, blend of grapes, and the vexed question of sugar at dosage. The list of winemaking variables is endless.
The added age after dosage and the effect of the Maillard reaction often means I will buy Champagne at Christmas and save it to the following Christmas.
Climate change and the gradual increase in alcohol from 12 to 13% is an unwelcome visitor.
I have had some excellent Champagne from Chartogne Taillet, Larmandier-Bernier, and Aurlien Suenan. I cannot offhand recall their grape varieties (L-B is a Cotes de Blanc Chardonnay man) but I have been tempted to splash out on Chartogne Taillet’s single vineyard Clos de Barres which is made from old vine ungrafted Meunier. Has anyone had it?

Finally I know this is a grower thread but may I put in a plea for the splendid Co-op Brun de Neuville in Cote de Sezanne. It is predominantly Chardonnay. Their 2008 and 2009 are on the market. Well worth seeking out. Lotos of depth and elegance in the 2008. I picked up some on a recent Black Friday deal at about £160 for 6.

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Excellent stuff, @Andrew1990

Without wishing to disagree with the underlying direction of your argument concerning multiple variables, I think the rise of Pinot Meunier in people’s estimation has been due to the realisation that as the toughest of the 3 main grapes, it was often planted in the most marginal soils where the other two failed. So it was frequently producing marginal wines from otherwise unusable sites. But give it a better site more to its liking and things look very different. That is a terroir-based argument. As of course is your blanc de blancs from the Cote de Blancs argument.

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