Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Champagne Rivalries by Shannon

This weekend I participated in celebrating a friend’s birthday, and naturally there was Champagne involved. However, what I noticed while out this weekend is that it seemed like everyone in Cincinnati was celebrating something, because everywhere I looked, people were drinking Champagne!

I’ve always been a huge lover of Champagne. I love the way it sparkles, fizzes and leaves me with a giddy feeling. Not to mention it represents happiness and a good time. Over the past few years in the wine business I’ve been fortunate enough to try some really great Champagnes, and to learn about what is called a ‘grower champagne.’

Grower Champagnes are admittedly the underdogs. They constitute about 3% of the Champagne market, and most people really have never heard of them. Champagne as a region is dominated by a handful of brand names, with most farmers and growers selling their fruit to these large houses. Instead of selling their fruit to the big guys, small growers (recoltant-manipulants) may handcraft their own Champagne, creating something unique, which expresses their beliefs about Champagne and about the specific region where their vines are planted. Supporting Grower Champagnes is comparable to supporting your local coffee shop, instead of Starbucks. These winemakers are brave souls in an industrialized age, offering up their life’s work to the world market.

So I found myself in quite the dilemma sipping on a glass of Veuve Cliquot this weekend, and actually really enjoying it. It had just the right amount of fizz, and the finish had a subtle yeastiness. The orange label of the bottle practically screamed, ‘Let’s Celebrate!’, so I found everything about the experience appealing. Until the guilt set in. Shouldn’t I be drinking a grower, someone like Pierre Gimonnet & Fils? (my favorite producer of Grower Champagne).

Out later that night, I ran into my friends Michelle and Kevin of the blog, My Wine Education, who were radiating with the glow that can only come from drinking through two bottles of Dom Perignon. I know Michelle shares my love and appreciation for Grower Champagnes, so I knew she was also sharing in some of my brand-name-imbibing guilt. We finally decided that given the opportunity, we would choose a grower everytime. However, everything has its time and place, and perhaps a big brand Champagne on special occasions doesn’t hurt. We will continue to stand on our soap box for the little guys, but if someone happens to bring us a cup of Starbucks while we’re up there, hey, we’ll drink it.

1 comment:

Michelle said...

You know, I was justifying the Champagne left and right that evening.
Excuse 1: Someone else bought the Dom and who was I to refuse my host?
Excuse 2: I had to try the Dom before I could aptly compare it to the growers, right? ;-)
When it comes down to it, well, it was just fun to relax and enjoy the Dom!
It was fun seeing you out and about!