Here is a full guide to grower champagne. Grower Champagne: beloved by all cork dorks and marveled over by sommeliers, and rightfully so. While there are many hot wine trends in today’s market like natural wine, orange wine, and even canned wine spritzers, there is nothing quite as niche as grower Champagne.
Why are the most intelligent minds in wine intrigued by grower Champagne? These special bubbles are hand-crafted by their growers, unlike many of the large Champagne houses that make up 87% of the Champagne imported into the US wine market. In fact, grower Champagne only accounts for 5% of all Champagne imported into the United States! These wines are an ultra-personal reflection of the vineyards they grow in and the unique styles of the grower, often changing with each new year.
The term ‘vigneron’ refers to a person who grows vines for wine production. In this case, it refers directly to grower Champagne. This type of Champagne grower varies greatly from Maisons (large Champagne houses) and Cooperative Champagne houses. These are wines collaboratively made up of all the grapes grown in a specific village. Vigneron operations are dramatically smaller in size. They also tend to handle every aspect of the grape’s journey from the vineyard to the bottle. Grower Champagne wines often have unique, distinctive palates that reflect their individual vineyards, growing conditions, and micro-climates.
The growers tend to the grapes every day in their vineyards and then proceed to make the wine themselves. As a result, they have an intimate understanding of what made that year’s harvest different than all the others. That knowledge is often reflected in the final bottled product. Traditional Champagne houses often blend multiple different lots to make their house style. They house style is a consistent flavor profile that their loyal drinkers recognize.
When equipped with a few simple tricks, recognizing grower Champagne from other types of Champagne producers is a breeze! At first glance, a clue that may be reflective of a grower Champagne is in the name. It is quite typical for grower Champagnes to be hyphenated, which often reflects the last name of the grower and a distinction of the heritage of the land they tend to, usually the maiden name of the grower’s mother or spouse.
While the last name can be a great clue as to whether or not you’re dealing with a large Champagne house or a small vigneron, it should not be used as the golden rule. Many other Champagne houses, growers or not, use family names and hyphenations to distinguish their labels. While there are still exceptions to this rule, grower Champagne is often easily recognizable by referring to two very small letters placed on the bottom of the front label. Of the seven different classifications, ‘RM’ is the answer to whether you are dealing with a grower Champagne. ‘RM’ or ‘Récoltant Manipulant’ is reflective of a grower-producer who uses at least 95% of their own fruit to produce their Champagne.
Pro tip- keep a keen eye, this clue is not always 100% conclusive of a grower Champagne as it is sometimes used by larger Champagne houses to distinguish smaller labels they may produce!