People seem to have a really boring obsession with & for grower champagne.
Grower champagne signifies “classy” here in the most cliche way possible, and people prefer plonk champagne to a fine wine. Champagne is a “generic” product. The selling of champagne to a public desperate to signify its class standing has been one of the great coups of modern marketing. These individual, local producers bring champagne production back to what it should be.
The biggest reason that grower brands are growing so much is because there is no pricing transparency. Because they are not distributed widely – also due to the fragmented marketplace – a restaurant or store can bring in a little grower brand that you have never heard and charge pretty much whatever they want for it i.e. ‘full’ mark-ups (and then some) – whereas for the more well-distributed i.e. ‘famous’ brands – they don’t have that luxury. So some stores use these big brands as loss-leaders – good news if you like a particular house or a vintage from that brand, because you can do some shopping around and find very good deals.
For the grower brands, as much as I like to explore and discover, I find that the price-to-quality ratio can be hit or miss unless you stick with that one producer, but then again the vintage variation can work against you. My advice therefore is to know the producer. But I do not avoid the big or slightly bigger houses just because they’re big. Give me a Hugues Godmé, Georges Laval, Marie-Courtin, Piollot, and Roger Pouillon, Krug, Ruinart or vintage Dom Ruinart, or Mumm de Cramant or Taittinger Comptes de Champagne or Billecart or yes, even a vintage Veuve Clicquot and I am a happy person.
Beauty can be found in so many wines, big and small. Happy New Year