High Spirits Spotlights Champagne
This month, The Whisky Exchange invites us to step out
of our big brand comfort zones and enter the world of grower Champagnes
Words by Will HALBERT
When it comes to Champagne, we understand why most people rely on the big names. But we think it’s time to broaden our horizons – it’s time to discover grower Champagnes. These are Champagnes produced by people who grow and make Champagne from their own grapes. Over the past five years, the popularity of these wines has surged, and for good reason.
What makes grower Champagnes so compelling is that the growers know their grapes better than the big producers. Most of them supply the more well-known houses, but since the growers can much more easily ensure the quality of their grapes and achieve better ripeness levels when using them for their own Champagnes, the wines are a cut above the rest.
What’s more, since they spend less on marketing, growers often offer better value for money. Dawn Davies, Master of Wine and head buyer at The Whisky Exchange, shares her knowledge of some of the grower Champagnes that we should be exploring. TWE
Champagne Lelarge Pugeot Extra Brut 1er Cru Blanc de Blancs NV
Lelarge-Pugeot is a grower that has been based in Vrigny, in the Montagne de Reims, since 1789 and today it is the seventh generation who work the land. They work organically and biodynamically – a self-sustaining system whereby natural materials are used to sustain the vineyard, and fertilisers and pesticides are forbidden – with minimal intervention, and only ever use Chardonnay grapes.
Dawn says: ‘This is a beautifully elegant Champagne with pear and crisp apple on the palate, joined by grapefruit and mandarin on the finish.’
Lamiable Rosé Grand Cru NV Extra Brut Champagne
This dry rosé Champagne is made with a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes by a grower based in the Tours-sur-Marne, on the western end of the Marne Valley. It works brilliantly with food, and can cope with everything from fish and cream sauces to lighter-flavoured meats.
Dawn says: ‘A deeply-coloured rosé, with hints of rosehip, a dollop of fresh raspberry and layered red fruits on the palate, and pink grapefruit on the finish.
AR Lenoble Blanc de Blancs Chouilly ‘Mag’ 14 Champagne
Mag 14 is the culmination of a project that AR Lenoble started in 2010 when the house started ageing its reserve wines – older wines kept for blending – in magnum-sized bottles, preserving their freshness and adding complexity. The quality of reserve wines is incredibly important, and with climate change affecting the ripeness of the grapes in the Champagne region, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to preserve the key vibrant character in them using more traditional methods.
Dawn says: ‘Poised and elegant with beautiful citrus fruit on the nose giving the wine an underlying intensity that makes it a fantastic aperitif that’s equally good with food.’
Roger Coulon Rosélie Rosé de Saignée Brut NV Champagne
Champagne Roger Coulon is looked after by the 9th generation of the Coulon family – winemakers with decades of experience. They have 10 hectares of old vines grown sustainably across the slopes around the premier cru village of Vrigny. Their rosé, Rosélie, is a classic of the area, made with 100% Pinot Meunier grapes.
Dawn says: ‘This is a rich, deep rosé that is packed with dark red fruits and a hint of tart cranberry. A good food wine – try it with roasted salmon.’
The Champagne Show 2019
The Whisky Exchange’s annual Champagne Show, held on Friday 1 November 2019 at OXO2, is the perfect opportunity to try more than 100 Champagnes, and experience masterclasses, food-pairings and Champagne cocktails. Tickets at champagneshow.com
Dawn Davies MW suggests visiting one of these London destinations to try grower Champagnes by the glass:
BubbleDogs, Champagne Bar
Sommelier Sandia Chang has curated an exclusive list of grower Champagnes, steering away from the big names to discover some of the smaller but most exciting and experienced wine producers. Many of the Champagnes are available by the glass, making it even easier to explore the range.
The Savoy Hotel, Beaufort Bar
London, The Strand
A new menu – Music, Magic & Drama – has launched at the Beaufort Bar, taking inspiration from the three founders of The Savoy Theatre. It’s separated into three sections and the first, Music, features an entire section of English sparkling wine and a longer section showcasing the bar’s enviable list of grower Champagnes.