Well I’m glad you asked.
Here at The Station, we’re dedicated to celebrating and promoting Récoltante-Manipulant winemakers from Champagne. That is to say, Grower-Producers. The large houses you mostly know by name or by their bright yellow labels are mostly Négociant-Manipulant… Meaning they purchase fruit from growers all over Champagne. So what’s the big deal with that? Why do we try to support the little guys? What’s the big difference?
There are several reasons we have chosen to carry these small Farmer Fizz producers over the easier-selling and familiar big name Negociants… They show a truer terroir rather than a house style, they can be more expressive, the farming practices are often better, you’re putting money in a family’s pockets instead of a corporation… To put this “Grower Producer” movement in to perspective, here are a couple fun facts:
- There are over 18,000 independent growers in the Champagne region. Only 5,000 of these are Grower Producers, or make their own Champagne from their vineyards.
- As of 2008, these wines made up only 3% of the market share of Champagne being imported to the US. This number is quickly increasing as the Grower-Producer movement catches momentum and more importers are scrambling to find smaller RM producers to represent and bring in.
I think Champagne importer Terry Theise puts it best below.
Why Drink Grower Champagne?
You should drink grower Champagne if you’ve forgotten that Champagne is WINE.
You should drink “farmer-fizz” if you’d rather buy Champagne from a farmer than a factory.
You should drink it if you’d rather have a wine expressive of vineyard, and the grower’s own connection to vineyard, than a wine “formed” by a marketing swami who’s studied to the nth-degree what you can be persuaded to “consume.” Do you really want to be reduced to a mere “consumer” when you can drink Champagne like a whole human being?
You should drink grower-Champagne if the individually distinctive flavors of terroir-driven wines matter more than the lowest-common denominator pap served up by the mega conglomerates in the “luxury goods” business.
You should drink it because it’s honest REAL wine grown and made by a vintner—by a FAMILY just like yours—by a “him,” not by an “it.” You should drink it because it’s better to buy wine from a person than from a company.
You should drink it because its price is honestly based on what it costs to produce, not manipulated to account for massive PR and ad budgets, or to hold on to market-share.
You should drink grower-Champagne because, like all hand-crafted estate-bottled wines, it is not a mere Thing but is indeed a BEING, expressive of where it grew and who raised it. In drinking it you help protect DIVERSITY, and diversity leads to VITALITY. And if you’d rather eat a local field-ripened summer tomato rapturous with sweetness instead of some January tomato you buy at the supermarket hard as a stone and tasting of nothing, then you should be drinking farmer-fizz!
Whew, I don’t know about you… but I’m inspired to drink some Champagne. Here, in no particular order, is a list of the FaRMer Fizz we are currently carrying here in the shop…
- Aubry Brut, 1er Cru ($38) – A blend of all 7 grapes grown in Champagne, 4 of which are very rarely found. A Station fave, we sell more of this than any of our other cuvées. Light honey, grapefruit… a playful cuvée and a tremendous value.
- Pierre Peters Cuvée Réserve, Grand Cru ($56) – All Chardonnay, and quite a show-stopper. Sleek and racy, but still somehow voluptuous. Chalk-driven, finishes with citrus and green apple.
- Remi Leroy, Brut ($44) – 95% Pinot Noir, 5% Chardonnay, all organically grown. Crisp, high acid cuvée with lovely notes of wild red berries and a solid zing of clove.
- Vilmart et Cie Grand Cellier, 1er Cru ($63) – Barrel fermented first (a rarity in Champagne), rich and sumptuous, this is basically Baby Krug at a fraction of the price. Champagne expert Peter Liem expounds: “Vilmart & Cie. is not only one of the greatest grower-estates in Champagne, but one of the finest champagne producers of any type in the region.”
- Marc Hebrart Brut Rosé, 1er Cru ($49) – My very favorite Rosé Champagne. Discreet, elegant aromas and flavors of strawberry and raspberry, light and pretty.
- Pierre Gimonnet et Fils 2008 Special Club ($92) – For fans of the low-dosage wines… Gimonnet’s cuvées rarely disappoint. All Chardonnay, all chalk driven, with seamless balance, crushed oyster shell, lemony splash and suave stoniness. 2008 is lauded as the best Champagne vintage of the decade, so this is a good one to snatch up as the importer has already sold out.
As we wrap up 2015, resolve to drink BETTER in 2016. You can start with that midnight toast, and we can help you find just the right wine to fill that glass.
See you soon, and Happy New Year!