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What’s Grower Champagne?

“Champagne is on the verge of profound change. There is a growing realization in the region that its viticulture has become slovenly and the subtleties of its terroir have been neglected. The era of great growers and great vineyards is just beginning.”
Andrew Jefford, The New France

In Champagne, only about 4,000 growers make their own wine; the rest sell their grapes to the cooperatives or to big brands like Moët & Chandon and Veuve Clicquot. In fact, big Champagne houses account for about 70 percent of total Champagne production and about 97 percent of sales outside Europe. They have long been the names that stand for Champagne.

But in the past several years, things have started to change. More growers have begun exporting their wines. And more consumers have been buying them. The reason for this new popularity is terroir—the untranslatable (and frequently invoked) French term for the confluence of weather, soil and aspect that gives a vineyard an identifiable character. Unlike the big houses, which buy grapes from all over Champagne (sometimes from as many as 1,000 different vineyard sites), growers make wines with grapes from a particular place. That sense of terroir, coupled with good prices (often 10 or 20 percent less than the big brands, and sometimes even lower), has incited sommeliers to add names like Pierre Paillard to their wine lists, even according them special categories in some cases. For winemakers too small to have marketing teams, publicity departments or, for that matter, much wine, this is a clear underdog victory

How to spot when a champagne has been made by the producer that grew the grapes rather than by a bottler that bought and blended the wine. Virtually all champagne front labels carry a little code next to the name of the producer as follows:

NM négociant-manipulant, one of the big houses/maisons/négociants
RM récoltant-manipulant, a grower who makes his or her own wine
CM coopérative de manipulation, one of the co-operatives
RC récoltant-coopérateur, grower selling wine made by a co-op
MA marque d’acheteur, buyer’s own brand, usually a made-up label

So to find a grower’s champagne, look out for the letters RM.

Click here to find out more about Champagne Pierre Paillard in British Columbia or click here for Alberta

Les Halos de Jupiter by Philippe Cambie

Originally from Pézenas in the Languedoc, Philippe Cambie began his wine consulting career in Châteauneuf-du-Pape in 1998 and is now one of the most sought after enologist in the area. He works with over 20 estates including such greats as Les Cailloux, Vieux Donjon, Clos du Mont Olivet, Saint Prefert, Clos Saint Jean, Tardieu-Laurent, and many others. Halos de Jupiter is his own project in partnership with Michel Gassier, the proprietor of Château de Nages in the Costières de Nîmes. These are small production wines sourced from great vineyards that Cambie has unique access to because of his many relationships in the region.

“According to poets, Jupiter (Zeus in Greek) is the father, the king of all gods and humans. He rules on Mount Olympus and his power is such that he can shake the entire universe by a simple nod of the head. He also represents the spiritual world, organizes the exterior world and is the god of all physical, moral and social rules. According to Mircea Eliade, he is the archetypical head of a patriarchal family. Jupiter is also the biggest planet of our solar system and its Halo is the closest of the three rings that surround the planet.

For me, Grenache is the king of all grapes and the natural leader of all Rhône varietals. The Halo symbolizes the appellations that best express its personality.”

-Phillippe Cambie, Oenologist

Click here to find out more about Les Halos de Jupiter in British Columbia or click here for Alberta