Bored with the usual mainstream brands of Champagne?
Now that is a phrase that I cannot ever, in any future breath, conceivably imagine myself ever saying. I can never imagine a time when I will have had too much Champagne of any kind…. That said, I can assure you that now, more than anytime in recent decades, there is plenty of choice when looking for your next bottle of Champagne.
The Champagne region has always worked very hard to be synonymous with celebrations, so much that the popping of a cork generally brings smiles all round. With more Champagne vineyards being planted to be able to keep up supply, there has been an increase in these grape growers producing their own Champagnes instead of just selling their grapes to the large Champagne houses.
You can identify a ‘grower’ Champagne by the code that is printed on the label. According to The Comité Champagne (www.champagne.fr) the code RM indicates Récoltant manipulant. ‘A grower who makes and market Champagne under their own label, from grapes exclusively sourced from their own vineyards and processed on their own premises. Of course, there are other types of Champagne producers such as co-operatives and negociant to name just two and each has a different term that they use on the label.
Here are five grower Champagnes to start your search:
Guy Charlemagne Champagne Grand Cru Brut Reserve Blanc de Blancs – a producer from Le Mesnil Sur Oger in the Côte des Blancs. Just try putting a glass of this wine down… Aromatically complex and lush with bread, grapefruit, dried pineapple and cashew nougat, with brine and orange rind and spiced, lime brûlée toffee developing as the wine relaxes in the glass. Soft fresh acid and a plush mousse sits lightly on the dry, ripe and spiced palate. That layered nose translates to rich complexity that lingers in the mouth. This Brut Reserve is a very intense wine without any feeling of being ‘overdone’ and is a good Champagne with food, maybe salmon or a chicken pie. (GB£29)
Champagne A. Bergère Grand Cru Blanc de Blancs Brut – Being 100% Chardonnay means that this Champagne is clean and crisp giving it a more pure profile of lemon shortbread, apple and spice. This fineness is carried into the sweetly ripe but dry palate balanced with a dosage of around 8 grams/litre. The flavours of bread, lemon, fresh apple, peach and spiced cream leave a lasting impression long after that sip. The fun side of Champagne.
Georges de la Chapelle Brut Millesime – The Prat family are a ‘hands on’ Champagne family and this wine is a testament to their passion for their work. A blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier from their own vineyards across Champagne sub-regions that give the family their best fruit. On first sniff it evokes scents of honeysuckle, lemon brioche, luxurious nougat and ginger along with some light strawberry and citrus fruits. In the mouth, the Georges de la Chapelle Brut Millesime 2006 is dry and the soft generous curves still hold a tighter line across the palate. (EU30) Click here to read a recent interview with Aurelia Prat.
M. Goulard Esprit Octavie Brut – A non-vintage Champagne from the family’s vineyards on the slopes of Massif de Saint-Thierry. It is a blend of 2009 and 2010 vintages of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes. With 4 years before disgorgement, this is rich and spicy on the nose with first impressions of ripe berry fruit before the nutty spiced biscotti, lemon peel and apple join in. It is elegantly weighted with a dosage of just over 8 grams/litre leaving it dry and well balanced. A generous dollop of cream melds with the almond praline that tops a mouthful of apple tarte tatin. It is oh! so smooth and soft, and as it finishes dry, it delivers lingering refreshment. (EU25+)
JL Vergnon Brut Nature NV Premier Cru Murmure – The zero dosage Blanc de Blancs alternative from the Cote des Blancs Champagne house JL Vergnon. With some of the base wine seeing some oak, there is an almond nuttiness to the pure citrus, floral and bready yeast expression of this wine. It is crisp and clean with a lightness of being, making it just right for an aperitif or a match with seafood and apertisers.