I had the pleasure of attending a seminar on Grower vs. Négotiant Champagnes…what a treat! Our presenter was Jeff Hacker who works at Binney’s Beverage Depot in Des Plaines, Illinois. Jeff has been in the industry for over 11 years. Jeff gave us a look at the world of Champagne while we tasted 6 amazing bottles of bubbles. Each tasting group – Blanc de Blancs, Blends, and Rosé- consisted of a Négociant and Grower champagne.
Champagne AOC Information/Statistics
Echelle des Crus– Champagne’s grading system- scores are based on grapes, soil, topography, and aspect
17 “Grands Crus” Villages (100% scores) “Premiers Crus” Villages (90-99% scores)
Location: 48th parallel- the northern most point of wine production.
Climate: Oceanic- steady rainfall, minimal seasonal temperature variation- average temperature is 50 degrees
Continental- optimal summer sunlight, prone to winter frosts
Varietals: Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier = 99.9% of champagne
Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Arbane, Petit Meslier- less than 250 hectares total, may not be replanted, currently may be used in blends
Subregions of Champagne AOC:
Montagne de Reims- northernmost, Pinot Noir
Vallée de la Marne- near Epernay, Pinot Meunier
Côte des Blancs- Chardonnay territory
Côte de Sézanne, Côte de l’Aube, Vallée de la Vesle, Vallée de l’Ardre, AOC Rosé des Riceys
Dosage: Sweetness levels ** First champagnes were made in a sweeter style than they are today. The measuring scale went from sweet to dry, which is why dry and extra dry are actually sweeter than brut categories! **Dosage is a mixture of sugar and wine added after the 2nd fermentation. **Residual sugar is the sugar remaining in the wine after fermentation. It is measured in grams per liter. Below is the scale from driest to sweetest.
Brut Nature – 0-3 G/L Extra Brut – 0-6 G/L Brut – 0-12 G/L
Extra Dry – 12-17 G/L Dry – 17-32 G/L Demi-Sec – 32-50 G/L Doux – 50+ G/L
Growers vs. Négotiants
Négociant- NM – 300+ Houses Growers -RM – 4500+ Producers
Focus on “house” style/large producers Focus on terroir/small producers
Buy grapes in addition to using own Produce only from own vines
Grapes bought from multiple areas Single area expresses terroir
Goal- produce same taste every time, Goal- represent the “terroir”
every bottle- style over terroir (land, soil, climate) terroir over style
Champagnes tasted at the seminar consisted of the following:
Blanc de Blancs- 100% Chardonnay
Négociant- Ruinart Blanc de Blancs NV -vivid, racy, my favorite of the night!
Grower- Pierre Peters Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Brut- lovely, expressive
Brut Blends- (Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier)
Négociant- Billecart Salmon Brut Reserve
Grower- Louis Nicaise Premier Cru Brut
Rosé- (Still Pinot Noir added or extended maceration)
Négociant- Louis Roederer Brut Rosé
Grower- Henri Billiot Grand Cru Brut Rosé
49,000,000 bubbles per 750 ML bottle of champagne! 30 bubbles per second emitted
Finer bubbles indicative of high quality champagne/ wider, larger bubbles sign of lesser quality
90psi- a bottle of champagne in under three times as much pressure as the tires on a car
Released at full speed, a cork can exit the bottle at 40mph! Open slowly , bottle angled at 45 degrees, gently release the pressure, controlled opening prolongs bubble retention
Thank you, Jeff, for an informative, delicious evening! The worst part of my job is spitting and dumping the wines at a tasting! Too many superb champagnes…must go back and bring a few home to truly enjoy! Cheers! Santé!