What is it about the small producers? I am often asked how I came about developing such an interest in them.
In fact, when I first started discovering the Champagne region, we would always stay with friends from Epernay. It seems that every family from the region has their favourite ‘big’ house they keep a stock of, but they also usually have three or four small grower champagnes that they keep for everyday consumption. Or cooking.
To be perfectly honest, we first went visiting the cellars because our friends told us how much cheaper it was at the cellar door. What we weren’t expecting was to be blown away by the flavour.
The small producers differ from the bigger ones in that they mostly stay true to their ‘terroir’. That is the variances that come from their grapes that change each year, depending on the weather conditions. The larger houses try to be consistent, to keep the public happy. People want to know what to expect. This consistency on a year to year basis is an art form in itself, and the big houses do use their vintages to show the yearly characteristics, but it is the complexity and character of the smaller houses that I find so appealing.
There are only about 2000 small producers who grow and produce their own champagnes, indicated by RM (meaning Récoltant-Manipulant) on the label. Of these, only about 130 find their way to the USA and less than that to Australia, where they make up only about 4% of the total champagne consumption.
I recently had the opportunity to talk about 3 of these fantastic small producers on Bubbly Talk Radio (the show will be aired at 3pm Sunday, 23rd September at 3pm American EST). The three we tasted were quite diverse, and can all stand on their own in a big crowd:
- Giselle Devavry Rosé de saignées – a lovely deep coloured 100% pinot noir rosé, very aromatique and a perfect aperitif
- Paul Dethune Blanc de Noir – manually harvested, naturally filtered and aged for 3 years in oak. Very long in the mouth with caramel, vanilla and hazelnut flavours
- Vilmart et Co Création 1999 – a rising star among small producers, that is completely organic. With a blend of 80% chardonnay and 20% Pinot Noir, this champagne is the perfect mix of delicacy and creaminess.
I feel very lucky to have had the opportunity to visit and taste so many of these small producers, but the thing I am most excited about, is that there are still about 1,950 that I am still yet to try!
All these champagnes are available to order in Australia at Southern Cross Wine Merchants online. More info available firstname.lastname@example.org