01438 741177         thewinesociety.com

The Rise and Decline of the Grower -Producer?


#1

I’m currently reading the wonderful and thought-provoking (not to say myth-shattering!) Bursting Bubbles. I’ve never been particularly excited by Champagne, but the book has definitely piqued my curiosity about the growers movement.
Alas! An article in this month’s Decanter is already predicting (or at least fearing) their demise in the face of multiple challenges. I am yet to even try growers’ Champagne, and wonder if the whole movement was nothing but another hype, or an exercise in wishful thinking…?
Any thoughts from those who tried growers’ Champagne? Is it really over before it has even begun?..


#2

I’m a convert but I’ve worked quite closely with Robert Walters so have no doubt been influenced by him. Also I’d put the caveat that I would rarely serve Grower Champagne outside of specific tastings/meals with those who have a specific interest in the story behind the wines. I question the value of most of them given the variable quality of many of them. That being said they offer a whole new voyage of discovery that is well worth exploring if you have the inclination/opportunity.

Another Australian commentator recently posted this video which raises some further questions about the business practices of the big houses.

Interesting times ahead.


#3

Hi @Inbar. I agree the Bursting Bubbles book is a good read, I nearly read it to the end on a long-haul flight. I’ve never had Champagnes made by the few names he focuses on. Somewhat worryingly some of them claim to have preferred to make it without the bubbles.

But there are many more grower/makers than those in the book. One I have followd for many year, stocking up when I visit Champagne, is Francis Boulard. His family have been growing grapes in Champagne for generations, selling to the big houses. His father Raymond decided to make the wine himself and Francis carried on in partnership with his sister. Francis’s move to organic and biodynamic viticulture saw yields drop and caused a family schism so he now makes Champagne from his share of the vineyards under the label Francis Boulard et Fille

Another grower maker I’ve bought from is Pierre Fresne of Fresne-Ducret. I’m currently enjoying halves of his Champagne as a Sunday pre-dinner aperitif brought back from Champagne.

I’ve not seen the Decanter article, but I think there will always be growers who want to make their own Champagne. And I like buying their products.

LATER EDIT

This edition of BBC Radio 4 Food Programme The Champagne Underground has interviews with some of the growers in the book, as well as the books author. The programme can be listened to online and downloaded


#4

That’s a really interesting video. I’ve not read the book yet but tried a couple of small growers champagne and IMO it’s much better than the popular large houses that seem to focus on quantity.


#5

Interesting video, @Tim_S! He pretty much repeats the issues raised in the Decanter article- the main one being that the smaller growers are struggling to sustain their livelihood, especially in years of bad weather- so many are returning to the négociant role. Brexit and French taxation apparently also have their affect. It seems quite sad - as there has been quite a lot of hope (or so it seems) that they can be a viable alternative to the Grand Marques.
Reading between the lines, though- it seems that the grower movements had definitely made the big houses consider questions of terrior and whether certain practices could and should be challenged. So maybe not all is lost… as you say, interesting times ahead!