The Club Trésors de Champagne is one of the wine world’s most prestigious organizations. Hailing from the famed Champagne region in northeast France, the group of just 28 artisan growers — of the appellation’s nearly 5,000 — exists with a mission to showcase the region’s terroir (a word that can be translated, somewhat loosely, as a “sense of place”) by producing Champagne that adheres to the strictest of standards.
Unlike many of the larger Champagne “houses,” which source their grapes from around the region’s approximately 34,300 hectares of vineyards to make wine, those in le Club are growers who use grapes that have been exclusively harvested on their own vineyards. As such, their wines are referred to as “grower Champagnes.”
“Because a grower is using just his own grapes from a small area, grower Champagnes tend to reflect the sense of place where they are made,” Karen MacNeil writes in “The Wine Bible.” Just as each grower comes from a different part of Champagne, so too will each individual wine reflect the diversity in soil and climate of Champagne.
It was this very concept that the inaugural members of the “Club de Viticulteurs de Champenois,” as it was first called at its founding in 1971, were hoping to preserve and highlight. The founders, who hailed from 12 respected “old owner/grower families from the Champagne region,” such as Pierre Gimonnet and Paul Bara, hoped to increase consumer awareness of the region’s originality.
The Club’s commitment to quality is rigorous and demanding. Its vetting process begins every February, when members meet to taste the top still wines from the previous harvest to decide whether the vintage is worthy of being made into a “Special Club” label. The decision must be unanimous. Past years that haven’t made the cut include 2003, when the Club ruled the vintage “too rich [and] slightly unbalanced.”
If the vintage passes, wines will undergo two blind panel tastings, first as a still wine, and later as a sparkling wine after it has aged in bottle for a minimum of three years. If it passes both tastings, it will go on to become a Special Club wine, bottled in a specially shaped vessel modeled after 18th-century Champagne bottles.
While difficult to source, a large collection of Special Club wines can be sampled or purchased at Trésors de Champagne, a boutique wine shop in downtown Reims, opened by the Club’s members in 2015. Prices generally start around $100 per bottle but vary depending on vintage.
Having proven itself through this grueling multiyear process, there is no doubt that the Special Club wine is considered to be the crème de la crème of Champagne.