Grower Champagne – beloved by all cork dorks and marveled over by sommeliers, and rightfully so. While there are many hot wine trends in today’s market like natural wine, orange wine, and even canned wine spritzers, there is nothing quite as niche as grower Champagne.
Why are the most intelligent minds in wine intrigued by grower Champagne? These special bubbles are hand-crafted by their growers, unlike many of the large Champagne houses that make up 87% of the Champagne imported into the US wine market. In fact, this champagne only accounts for 5% of all Champagne imported into the United States! These wines are an ultra-personal reflection of the vineyards they grow in and the unique styles of the grower, often changing with each new year.
The term ‘vigneron’ refers to a person who grows vines for wine production, and in this case, refers directly to grower Champagne. This type of Champagne grower varies greatly from Maisons (large Champagne houses) and Cooperative Champagne houses, which are wines collaboratively made up of all the grapes grown in a specific village. Vigneron operations are dramatically smaller in size and tend to handle every aspect of the grape’s journey from the vineyard to the bottle. Grower Champagne wines often have unique, distinctive palates that reflect their individual vineyards, growing conditions, and micro-climates.
Because the growers tend to the grapes every day in their vineyards and then proceed to make the wine themselves, they have an intimate understanding of what made that year’s harvest different than all the others and that knowledge is often reflected in the final bottled product. Traditional Champagne houses often blend multiple different lots to make their house style, a consistent flavor profile that their loyal drinkers recognize.
Identifying Grower Champagne
When equipped with a few simple tricks, recognizing grower Champagne from other types of Champagne producers is a breeze! At first glance, a clue that may be reflective of a grower Champagne is in the name. It is quite typical for grower Champagnes to be hyphenated, which often reflects the last name of the grower and a distinction of the heritage of the land they tend to, usually the maiden name of the grower’s mother or spouse.
While the last name can be a great clue as to whether or not you’re dealing with a large Champagne house or a small vigneron, it should not be used as the golden rule. Many other Champagne houses, growers or not, use family names and hyphenations to distinguish their labels. While there are still exceptions to this rule, grower Champagne is often easily recognizable by referring to two very small letters placed on the bottom of the front label. Of the seven different classifications, ‘RM’ is the answer to whether you are dealing with a grower Champagne. ‘RM’ or ‘Récoltant Manipulant’ is reflective of a grower-producer who uses at least 95% of their own fruit to produce their Champagne. Pro tip- keep a keen eye, this clue is not always 100% conclusive of a grower Champagne as it is sometimes used by larger Champagne houses to distinguish smaller labels they may produce!
Here at Benchmark Wine Group, we’re huge fans of grower Champagne- check out some of our favorite producers! Egly-Ouriet, Agrapart & Fils, Benoit Lahaye, Gaston Chiquet, Tarlant, Vilmart, Mousse Fils, or explore our entire inventory of Champagne!
Established in 2002, Benchmark Wine Group is the leading source of fine and rare wine retailers, restaurants and collectors around the world. Based in Napa Valley, we acquire the most sought-after wines from private individuals and professional contacts, but only when provenance can be verified by our team of acquisition professionals. Our staff draws on decades of industry experience and is dedicated to providing exceptional service to all of our clients. Benchmarkwine.com offers 24-hour access to our cellar, displaying inventory in real-time.