‘Tis the season to pop some bubbles! If we ever need an excuse to drink Champagne (spoiler: we don’t), the holidays offer plenty.
We are also awash in grower Champagne, or bottles from smaller, artisanal winemakers who produce Champagne only from estate-owned vineyards. According to MarketWatch, grower Champagne imports to the United States grew by more than 33 percent between 2011 and 2015. There are now seemingly endless options for exciting, terroir-driven wines that express every area, grape, and style of the region.
The trend among grower-producers over the past decade has been to bottle single-vineyard, single-vintage, single-variety cuvées. This gives Champagne lovers the opportunity to really explore the nuances of the region, from the heart of Champagne and its grand and premier cru villages to the emerging, southerly Aube.
While we could have easily listed dozens of phenomenal grower Champagne bottles, these 12 offer value, complexity, and deliciousness in a range of budgets. They span styles from blanc de blancs to blanc de noirs, hail from all over the region, and range from razor-sharp to voluptuous and rich.
We’d like to assure you that this list won’t cause you to become Champagne obsessives like us, but unfortunately, that’s probably just not true. Welcome to the club.
Produced by a female winemaker who took over the winery as a solo venture after her divorce, the “Goustan” Blanc de Noirs is a savory, textured Champagne with lively fruit. While technically labeled as a non-vintage wine, all of the Pinot Noir fruit used for this wine is from the 2012 vintage. Tart red fruits like raspberry and sour cherry balance with salty minerality to produce a complex yet easy-drinking Champagne. Average price: $48
While the Aube region is known for Pinot Noir, the small village of Montgueux has chalky soil perfect for Chardonnay. This blanc de blancs has rich impact from the ripe fruit at first, chiseled away by lean acidity and minerality on the palate. It’s lively, springy, and well-balanced. Average price: $48.
Former semi-pro basketball player Aurelien Suenen took over his family’s estate at just 23, becoming one of the Côte des Blancs’ top new Champagne producers. A blend of mostly Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir with Chardonnay, the Brut Reserve has fresh, crunchy citrus and apple fruit, along with bright, chalky minerality. Average price: $50.
The Savart family has produced Champagne in two premier cru Vallée de la Marne villages since 1947, focusing primarily on Pinot Noir, with a bit of Chardonnay. Completely comprised of Pinot Noir, the “L’ouverture” is an excellent introduction to the producer, with round, aromatic red fruit and a touch of underlying minerality. Average price: $50
Now helmed by the fifth generation of the Marguet family, Benoit, Champagne Marguet is a biodynamic producer located in the Montagne de Reims’ top villages. This blend is based on Pinot Noir with some Chardonnay, and has tangy, tart fruit with lemon-like pop and plenty of earthy character. Average price: $50
Listening to Alexandre Chartogne wax on about his vineyards is like hearing poetry read by its very expressive poet. Chartogne-Taillet’s wines have a similarly transporting effect. In this case, “Le Rosé” evokes a picnic blanket on a spring day, fresh strawberries fragrant under the warm sun. Average price: $54
Jean-Baptiste Geoffroy, along with his father, René, have produced characterful Champagnes since René decided to stop selling grapes to the larger houses in the 1970s. The “Empreinte” is designed to be the best expression of Pinot Noir, balanced by Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier, all from a single vintage — making it one of the best values for vintage Champagne, period. Think fresh red fruit with hints of flowers and earth. Bonus: It comes in splits as well, in case you don’t plan to share. Average price: $60
Cédric Bouchard has been the poster child for the natural grower-producer movement since he began making wine 17 years ago when he was in his 20s. A pioneer of the single-vineyard, single-vintage, single-variety style, he bottles his Champagnes at a lower atmospheric pressure, making them less bubbly. This 100 percent Pinot Noir from the Val Vilaine vineyard in the Aube simmers in the mouth, with prickly acidity, minerality, and broadness at the same time. Live on the edge and gently decant this bottle before drinking. Average price: $70.
The Champagnes of Bérêche et Fils, helmed by two brothers along with their father, are go-to bottles for anyone who loves grower Champagnes. They consistently offer both complexity and value, which is why we named the producer’s entry-level Brut Réserve our third-best wine of 2017. “Les Beaux Regards” is made from 100 percent Chardonnay grapes and vinified in used barrels. It’s a rich, toasty wine with classic, fine acidity, like a bubbly Burgundy. As of 2013, Bérêche et Fils is technically classified as a négociant-manipulant rather than a grower-producer; however, purchased grapes are only found in the Brut Réserve and under the Raphaël et Vincent Bérêche label, so this is 100 percent grower-producer Champagne. Average price: $80.
It’s like a treat every time this bottle is popped, and it’s about to become even more special — the winemaker announced that she will be retiring after the 2017 vintage. This blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay seems like it’s going to be an extremely nervy, linear Champagne, but after assaulting the palate up front with acidity, it rounds out and hugs you. Average price: $90.
Of all five sub-regions of Champagne, the Côte de Sezanne gets the least recognition — save for the remarkable Ulysse Collin. Run by Olivier Collin, this producer is known for making epic, small-production Champagnes with mind-blowing, swoon-worthy depth and richness. The varietal Chardonnay “Les Pierrières” is made from the chalk-laden vineyard of the same name, making it the most searing and mineral-driven of Collin’s Champagnes. That said, it is still incredibly plush, rich, and succulent. Average price: $100
So you want to ball out on bubbles? We fully support your life decisions. If there’s one grower-producer to splurge on, Jacques Selosse is it. The label is now run by Jacques’ son, Anselme, among the most influential figures in grower Champagne production today. (In fact, it was spending time with Selosse that inspired the aforementioned Ulysse Collin to start making Champagne.) A blend of Chardonnay from three villages and vintages, the “Initial” is fresh and inviting. It’s soft at first but rounds out to a long, ever-changing finish with deep flavor. Lemon meringue, brioche, toast, and nuts just dip a toe into the flavors in this intense wine. Average price: $200.