A Bubble You'd Love To Burst
So I was at a private Grower Champagne event last week at Osgoode Hall in Toronto.
(I know that opening sentence could not sound more pretentious. I get it. In fact, if you decide to stop reading right now I fully understand. Unfortunately every now and then in the wine world you find yourself at these delightful, super-tasty events that when you try to describe your evening you sound like Thurston Howell III. But I wanted to write a quick piece, think of it as a Public Service Announcement for Growers Champagne.)
In a nutshell, the biggest differences between Growers Champagne and the top brands you see at your wine store (Moët & Chandon, Tattinger … etc.) are size of production and a greater expression of the specific terroir from where the Growers Champagne grapes are sourced from.
Growers Champagne is that smaller, mom-and-pop farm Champagne; the big houses like Veuve Clicquot are the giant conglomerates. Now, before all the hipsters out there read that last sentence and immediately swear off Dom Pérignon for some farm-to-table bubbly let me clarify. What the giant houses do is damn impressive, to be able to seek out and achieve such high levels of consistency year in and year out.
That represents having excellent relationships with grape growers throughout the Champagne region. It means employing the best and the brightest blenders who know how to capture the essence of their specific Champagne house. There’s a reason Pol Roger tastes so freakin good every time you are lucky enough to pop one open.
As for the growers, they typically grow all their own grapes that will go into their cuvée. That means you can get a greater sense of what that individual piece of land is all about. They don’t have the money or power to source grapes for a myriad of vineyards so they have to go with what they can grow.
What this does mean is a departure from your normal expectations from Champagne; you will get more funky notes on the nose and more unexpected results on the palette. Also, beyond just a new world of wine for you to explore you will definitely score some major wine cred points when you show up at a party with a bottle of Growers Champagne.
Here are some of the examples I got to try with some brief tasting notes:
1-Diebolt-Vallois 2008 Brut Blanc de Blancs
A-Wow! A whole lotta funk from the nose to the finish.
**NOTE** More often than not when I mention a wine has “funk” on it that is a GOOD thing. Means there is more going on with the wine than just whatever the expected fruit profile is. Funk can represent notes such as earthy, old leather, barnyard or the many other descriptors that sound weird to read but makes sense when you put your nose into a glass. Basically it means a higher level of complexity and depth.
B-Lotta gooseberry and green apple.
2-Bernard Gaucher 2008 Brut ‘Prestige’
A-Much like some of the other Champagnes I was not in love with this one but I appreciate how they can bring different expressions of what we think Champagne should smell/taste like. This wine was dominated by a crab-apple flavour and overall was more about the fruit than the yeast. Wasn’t for me.
3-R.H. Coutier – Brut Rosé Grand Cru NV
A-Interesting that one of the cheaper wines we tried (All right at $76.95 it’s not exactly “cheap”) was also the one I enjoyed the most.
B-Other Champagnes possessed a higher degree of complexity but this was just a really fun wine to drink.
C-Fragrant, lots of fleshy red fruit
4-Ulysse Collin – Les Maillons’ Extra Brut Blanc de Noirs
A-So much toast!
B-Smelled and finished like a well-made Chassagne-Montrachet. I mean, if you had told me this was a white Burgundy and I didn’t get to view the glass and only went by smell you could have convinced me.
C-This wine is aged in 3 to 6 year old Burgundy Barriques and it shows.
5-Bérêche et Fils – Brut Reserve NV
A-This one hits you with so much orange peel, lime and citrus notes
B-Mousse just explodes in your mouth
C-Fewer biscuit notes than I was expecting.
The bad news is that Growers Champagne can be hard to find, but if you ever run across a couple bottles give them a shot. Don’t worry the Veuve will still be there waiting for you whenever you’re done. Happy hunting!
Matt Cauz @mcauz56. Matthew has explored the wineries of Bordeaux, Burgundy, Barolo and many other parts of the world that do not start with the letter “B” including New Zealand and California. When he’s not looking for that next great bottle he is a radio host for TSN 1050 in Toronto.