Bringing the right Champagne to a party is always dicey and curious business for me. Picking bubbles for a gathering of wine and food writers creates new layers of complexity and anxiety. When the occasion falls on the evening (tonight) of a global Champagne celebration that will connect tasters all around the world at their homes, restaurants, and meet ups of all kinds via the #Champagne twitter conversation, the ante balloons. And, to shed some final light on tonight’s personal predicament, the selection stakes escalated attending the Global Champagne Day tasting event at the home of Dale Cruse, author of Drinks Are On Me, who has dedicated himself to 365 consecutive days of drinking, tasting, and writing about Champagne (really sparkling wine); an impressive feat.
The selection needs to be smart, savvy, delicious, and different. To me, that means “Grower Champagne”. These kinds of wines connect the farming to the producing; Champagne crafted by the same people that own and work the vineyards. There are thousands of different producers of Grower Champagne and, for the most part, they tend to be small production wines sourced from one or more vineyards in a tight geographic footprint. As a result, they better express terroir and a unique personality compared to the cuvees produced by larger Champagne houses. On the other hand, the larger houses are safer bets for consistency since the wine makers blend an array of purchased grapes to achieve a house style that offers some degree of flavor predictability year to year. They also have recognizable brand names that can impress your host, like Krug or Mumm.
You can recognize a grower Champagne at your wine shop by the “RM” on the label. It stands for grower maker, or Récoltant-Manipulant in French. While I am not as nimble with Champagne as other wine categories, my experience has proved that you will spend less on many grower Champagnes than you would on bigger house bottlings. And, you can reliably experience a unique and honest wine that is carefully assembled by a proud vineyard owner and farmer. Indulge yourself further in this topic with this older post written by a much more experienced Champagne hand than me, Brooklynguy.
So, this is the exact path for me to take on Global Champagne Day for the Dale Cruse event. I will chill and bring the NV Aubry Brut Premier Cru, a Terry Theise/Michael Skurnik grower Champagne selection. I wrote about the Aubry in a post recapping my 25th anniversary celebration at Barbara Lynch’s recently opened Menton (where coincidentally I will be dining this Halloween weekend with some good friends from Napa Valley…what to drink there???). It is a wine made in the solera style with half of the fruit from the current vintage and the other half being the final blend from the previous year’s bottling. As you will see from my previous post, it is a rewarding and delicious wine that you can usually find between $35-$40.
Follow the twitter conversation tonight, October 28th, at #Champagne to get real time tasting notes and to see how everyone else feels about my selection. And, to join in on the fun, go find a grower Champagne of your own choice and let everyone know what you think of it.