Farmer Fizz (Or Grower Champagne)

We are excited to host our summer Cellar Salon at Antonelli's Cheese House with a focus on Grower Champagne. To prepare our members for this unique evening, Mark Rashap, WFFT's Director of Wine Education, shares the ins and outs of Grower Champagne!

This helpful primer for Grower Champagne (aka Farmer Fizz or Recoltant Manipulant in French) will help you in your appreciation and selection.

What is a Grower Champagne?

  • Simple! A producer of Champagne that grows 95% or more of his or her grapes is allow to be called a Recoltant Manipulant. If a producer chooses to purchase more than 5% of their grapes or wine, they would fall under another category, the Negociant Manipulant.

How do you identify a Grower Champagne?

  • Every Champagne label must contain the register code for the producer, often in extremely tiny font, which must be preceded by a two letter code, i.e. RM, NM, or CM. RM is what you should look for for a Grower Champagne, NM is the Negociant House, and a CM is a Cooperative Producer.

The complexity of the region of Champagne:

  • There are over 15,000 growers who own 90% of the land, but only 320 Houses make 90% of the wine exported (⅔ of the Champagne produced). These large Houses that make the well-known brands (Veuve Clicquot, Bollinger, etc.) might grow some grapes, but also purchase grapes from hundreds of tiny vineyards all over the region. Today, of the 15,000 farmers, about 5,000 of them produce their own Grower Champagne, and only about 300 are available in the US. The reason growers didn’t make more Champagne through history was because the equipment, know-how, manpower, and the necessity for large cellars made it prohibitive for small growers to make Champagne.

Why are Grower Champagnes fun to taste and allow for better insight into the diversity of Champagne?

  • A grower often owns land in one village or from a single terroir, so when you taste those Champagnes, you can taste how that one village is different than a neighboring one. There are also more single varietal Champagnes that are focusing on one of the 3 grapes (i.e. Blanc de Blancs or Blanc de Noir), whereas a large producer usually blends all three grapes from vineyards all across the region. Also, since RMs aren’t under pressure to sell boatloads of product, there is more room for experimentation.

Do Grand Cru and Premier Cru in Champagne have a different meaning than in Bordeaux or Burgundy?

  • Yes! In Champagne, the entire village is rated, whereas, in Bordeaux it is the Chateau and in Burgundy the precise vineyard. There are 17 villages rated as Grand Cru and about 44 villages rated as Premier Cru. Both RM and NM producers can use these classifications as long as all the grapes come from such declared villages.

Interested in joining us at the Grower Champagne Cellar Salon on July 29th, 2017? Cellar Salons are a benefit for our Epicurean and Bon Vivant members where guests are asked to bring a bottle from their cellar (or a bottle they've purchased) to share and discuss with other members. Join or upgrade your membership today!