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What is Grower Champagne? The Truth

Champagne 101 by Mimi Giraud

If you have even the slightest interest in wine, you most certainly have heard the term "grower champagne". But what exactly is a grower, and what makes them so special?

Grandes Marques vs Récoltants Manipulants vs Coopératives

In the realm of champagne production, three primary categories dominate the landscape:

  • Maison or Grandes Marques, represented by iconic names like Mumm, Moët et Chandon, and Veuve Clicquot, source grapes from numerous vineyards across the Champagne region to craft a consistent house style. They often own only a small amount of land compared to the vineyards that they source from. For example The Vranken-Pommery group produces around 20 million bottles of champagne per year. They source from around 1,500 hectares in Champagne of which they own less than 20%. 80% is purchased with long term contracts from growers throughout the region. On each bottle of Grande Marque Champagne. you will find a unique serial number preceded by NM. NM stands for Négociant Manipulant, meaning they buy in grapes to make wine in their own cellars. There are 250 Négociant-Manipulant in Champagne, among them the most famous Maisons de Champagne which control over 50% of the market.

  • Grower champagne on the contrary generally own and/or manage the vineyards they source their grapes from. They do everything from cultivate, harvest, vinify and sell their own champagne from A to Z. There are at least 2000 growers, which show a multifaceted version of the Champagne terroir. While the houses want to show a vision of Champagne as a whole, a grower will showcase the terroir of their sub-region, village or even of a single plot. Most grower champagnes will be called Récoltant Manipulant (RM), however some exceptions can be made. For example, Etienne Calsac buys and vinifies chardonnay from a parcel that his grandmother owns. He has changed to NM status, but is still considered one of the most talented growers of the region.

  • If you happen to stumble across a bottle with the initials CM (Coopérative Manipulant), the wine was made by a group of growers who have teamed up to create a communal brand. They pool their grapes and resources to create champagnes collectively. Some CMs of note are; Nicolas Feuillatte, Palmer & Co, Mailly Grand Cru and Chavost.

One can equate house champagne to an orchestra composed of numerous musicians playing in harmony, and a grower producer might be compared to a singer-songwriter.

Growers working the vines in the village of Tauxières

So which one is better? Or are they?

One of the most significant distinctions between grower champagnes and those produced by large houses lies in their approach to terroir. While big houses blend grapes from diverse regions to maintain a consistent flavor profile, grower champagnes celebrate terroir by sourcing grapes from single vineyards or closely located plots. This emphasis on terroir results in wines that express the unique characteristics of their origins, offering a diverse range of aromatics that reflect the nuances of the land. In contrast, the homogeneity of big houses, which can blend grapes from up to 150 villages into a single champagne, tends to prioritize consistency over individuality. The terroir driven approach is what prevails in most winemaking regions, but Champagne has created a safety net with their blending or assemblage methods, which have enabled producers to create wines every year despite capricious weather. Both categories are excel in their own right. Grower champagnes excel in showcasing the distinctiveness of each vineyard's terroir, allowing wine enthusiasts to explore the nuances of different plots within Champagne. On the other hand, large houses demonstrate mastery in consistency, leveraging their blending expertise to craft reliable and uniform flavors year after year. While both approaches have their merits, it is the dedication to terroir that sets grower champagnes apart, offering a glimpse into the diverse and intricate landscape of Champagne winemaking. Which one is the best approach, is up to you to decide through tasting. It is ultimately a question of taste.

However, there is a certain allure in smaller family-owned Grower Champagne producers

Their charm lies not only in their dedication to terroir-driven winemaking but also in their independence from corporate structures. These producers often lack the massive marketing budgets of larger houses and operate as intimate, family-run businesses with a personal touch. With no shareholders to appease, grower champagne producers have the freedom to experiment and innovate, resulting in wines that encapsulate the passion and creativity of their makers. Moreover, supporting these smaller producers allows consumers to connect with the stories behind the labels, fostering a deeper appreciation for the craftsmanship and heritage of Champagne production.

After searching far and wide, and tasting champagnes from throughout the region, we decided to works with the inspiring team at Champagne Barbier Louvet. Not only are they run by an incredible woman named Céline Barbier, but they are also the custodians of exquisite vineyards in Premier Cru and Grand Cru villages in the Montagne de Reims.

Céline is the sixth-generation in the family to work on this property, and wears many hats: she is the winegrower, the harvester, the marketing manager and export manager of the house. They produce just 40,000 bottles every year but the grapes that don't make it into their sumptuous blend are sold to the very famous Veuve Clicquot House.

We are very lucky to import their wonderful champagnes in to Singapore exclusively. Should you be interested in tasting the range, you can find the selection here.



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