Champagne Growers, a brand-new world!
Have you ever noticed on the labels of champagne the designation, Récoltant-Manipulant, “RM” ?..do you know what it means?.. do you know the difference between this and Négociant-Manipulant, “NM” ?..I’m going to enlighten you if I may.
The first thing I have to say is that the quality has nothing to do with this designation, you find good and not so good champagnes in both, so what is the difference?
Let’s start with, Négociant-Manipulant, “NM”, this is the most common designation for the big houses of champagne, it means that in order to maintain the same style of the champagne year after year without having variations of quality, they buy grapes from many places and farmers inside the Champagne area, and then they produce the wines according to standards they desire, with this, they guarantee a style, a quality which every champagne house is recognized and also have larger volumes of production to supply the markets. Now, as you know these big houses have fantastic quality on their wines year after year, this is what they do for the entry-level champagnes, but they also have the vintages, the special editions, the single-vineyard ones, etc, and these are the ones where these big houses search for unique characteristics that make these champagnes special. Some growers have contracts with the big houses to sell the grapes they produce and some of them besides this also make small productions for their own consumption, and I tell you, some of these champagnes are real treasures.
Now, the difference between these big houses and the Récoltant-Manipulant, “RM”, is the scale of production and the expression of the “terroir” where they come from, artisan production of champagnes from their own vineyards, they can be from just a single plot, a village or even from their backyard, very simple facilities and people so dedicated to the passion of the wines they do, wine geeks, excentric, not caring about the protagonist but only focus in the search for the perfection of their champagnes.
These people put all the love and attention into what they do, all of them with a story to tell and, and this is the delight of the sommeliers and wine writers.
More exposed to natural conditions, organic or low intervention on the vineyards, but the result is something more genuine, a vineyard with specific sun exposure, altitude, on a slope, clay soils, etc…and yes, you can find differences of the wines made from a plot just a few meters away.
Some of these producers are out of the most famous champagne villages like Reims, Epernay, etc, and this makes general consumers be a bit suspicious about the quality of these champagnes, but let me remind you about a few things, first of all, the champagne region is classified in four different regions, the mountain of Reims, the valley of Marne, the Côte de Bar and the Côte de Blanc for its famous Chardonnays, and this classification has to do with the difference of the “terroir” that influences the style of the champagnes, together with the most famous grapes that for sure you heard about before, Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and the Pinot Munier, so far so good but what if I tell you that you also have Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Petit Meslier and the ancestral Arbane, not as famous as the previous ones but also used and approved, and some of them like the Arbane being used for centuries.
Going back to the small growers, some of them are using these not so famous grapes for generations passing from father to son as a heritage of the traditions, proud people that want to be independent. As a Sommelier, for me, wine is not only what we drink but also the passion that people like to put in what they do, and you feel it in the glass.
The not so good part of this is where to get these champagnes as they are not so easy to find, and yes, the price sometimes can be an issue with a big demand for the most famous growers the prices get high, understand also those small productions are not as profitable as the large-scale ones so the exclusivity needs to pay.
Growers like, Egly-Ouriet, Jacques Selosse, Jaques Lassaigne, Bereche et Fils, just to name a few.
It is a brand-new world!
If you can put your hands on a champagne-like this, give it a try and you will not regret it.