Thanks for checking back in with Todd, your friendly Kahn's wine guru. Today, we're going to talk about one of my favorite subjects: Champagne.
Our Experience: Yesterday, we were thirsty. It probably doesn't shock any of you to hear that from time to time we drink wine while we are working. Call it 'education' or 'staff training'...call it whatever you want, but it happens. Anyway, Paul decided to be a good guy yesterday (he was thirsty) so he bought us a bottle of Gaston Chiquet Champagne to share. Gaston Chiquet is a Grower Champagne...we'll talk more about that later. Every employee at our North Willow location tried it and I have to be honest, it certainly brightened my day. The Gaston Chiquet was a study of elegance and complexity. Sadly, Paul made sure that we didn't drink it all, because he wanted to share some with his wife Deb--probably a good move for Paul. Just so you know, Deb is a pretty tough sell on Champagne; however, when I talked to Paul this morning, he told me that she loved it and he had one job today: BUY MORE. That Deb loved the Gaston Chiquet would be enough for me to try anything, but I thought this experience would be a good thing to write about. My official notes are below.
Gaston Chiquet Carte Verte Brut: 92 pts. Golden color. Citrusy nose with a brief note of ginger and loads of minerals-I mean loads. On the palate, we find the same lemony citrus flavors accompanied by crisp acidity and a palate-captivating earthy complexity. The wine finished creamy, but clean. Drink now. $48.99 at all Kahn's locations.
What are Grower Champagnes? Grower Champagnes are sparkling wines produced in the Champagne region where the producer and the grower are the same entity. You might think this would be fairly common, but you would be incorrect. Click here for excerpts from a Grower Champagne seminar by Kevin Pike and Terry Theise.
How do I identify a Grower Champagne from a regular Champagne?
It's easy. Look for the letters RM on the label. On most Champagnes, you will find the two letters NM which stands for Negociant Manipulant. NMs are producers who buy grapes to produce their wines. Grower Champanges have RM on their labels; RM stands for Recoltant Manipulant, meaning that these producers grow the grapes that they use to make their wines. When you find RM, you have located a Grower Champagne...but Grower Champagnes are a tiny % of all Champagne produced, so be patient because they are often tricky to find.
THE REALITY OF THE CHAMPAGNE REGION
- Negociants and cooperatives produce 80% of Champagne, but only own 10% of the vineyards....Sounds fishy, doesn't it? Where is all of their fruit coming from then?
- Well, the Champagne AOC is the largest in France, and producers often source fruit for Champagnes from 80-100 growers peppered here and there throughout Champagne's 85,000 acre growing region...
- So...can Champagne really taste of the place where it's from when the fruit is sourced from 80-100 different vineyards dispersed over 85,000 acres?
THE TRUTH is that Champagne still tastes like Champagne, even when it's sourced from the various terroirs in the region, but only to a point.
WHY BUY GROWER CHAMPAGNES?
Grower Champagnes literally taste of the place where the grapes were grown. There is something comforting when you can look out of a winery's window and know that THE GRAPES IN THESE VINEYARDS MAKE THE WINES FROM THIS WINERY. Don't take that for granted, because it is much less common than you might think.
Grower Champagnes are wonderful because growers aren't trying to sell you their wine with a cute label or a made-up story. To grower/producers, the wine they produce is really their wine-from grape to bottle. It is a product of the land they love and it is a reflection of their hard work. There's something really special about that, especially in a world where we are constantly bombarded with images that entice us to buy stuff.
The vineyards at Gaston Chiquet....
The Price: Grower Champagnes are often the same price or 10-20% above your garden variety Champagnes that we all know and love....
If you try these delicious wines, I promise you'll be happy.