What is Grower Champagne?

What is Grower Champagne?

Starbucks has a lot going for it. It’s on every corner, it always tastes the same, and it’s made you aware of all the ways your name could be misspelled. But your caramel macchiato probably doesn’t transport you to farms in Brazil or Indonesia. Whereas, get a single-origin coffee from some place with elaborate pour-overs, and you’ll feel quite a bit different.

 You can think of Champagne in the same way. Big producers like Moet & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot are kind of like Starbucks. They buy grapes from thousands of farmers, blend them together to create a consistent house style, and distribute their wines pretty much everywhere. A small fraction of farmers, though, don’t sell their grapes to the big houses. Instead, they use them to produce their own wines. They make what's called grower Champagne.

Grower-producers farm the land, harvest the fruit, and make the wine. Since the grapes come from one farm rather than from vineyards across Champagne, these wines are the best illustrations of the region’s unique terroir. The same grower-producer might release two wines made with the same grape variety from the same subregion, and they could taste totally distinct. While the big Champagne houses do everything they can to eliminate this kind of variability, grower-producers embrace it, creating Champagne that reflects exactly where it comes from. 

Grower Champagne also reflects exactly who made it. Producers like Bérêche & Fils, Pierre Pieters, and Chartogne-Taillet use the best farming practices to grow the best fruit, and their deep understanding of the land leads to the best possible wines. While they can’t counter the region’s notoriously finicky weather by blending grapes from across the region, they compensate with top-class winemaking. Any vintage variation that may arise can simply be viewed as a true expression of Champagne

How to tell if a bottle is grower Champagne:

Every bottle of Champagne bears a set of initials noting the type of producer that made it. Grower Champagne has “RM” listed on the label. It stands for Récoltant Manipulant, and denotes a producer who used 95+% estate-grown grapes to make the wine. On the other hand, the big Champagne houses are labeled “NM” for Negociant Manipulant, meaning that they purchased 95+% of grapes from other growers. 

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