I love popcorn action flicks, and will defend Twister, Con Air and any Simpson Bruckheimer movie without hesitation. But when you ditch the cool effects and paint by numbers plots and go outside of the system, everyone gets all that great funky, quirky stuff – Pulp Fiction, Scream, Trainspotting. And that’s where grower Champagnes come in.
Basically, farmers in Champagne have been growing all the grapes for decades. They sell to the big houses like Moët and Laurent Perrier who all aim to make their signature Champagnes in the same style each year, sourcing grapes from tons of different farmers and areas in the region. These houses also spend about a fifth of their money on marketing, which drives up the price and pays off for them because those are the names you know and depend on for decent bub.
Recently though, the grape growers have gone totally Weinstein and have started to make and bottle their own Champagnes – hence the term “grower Champagne” or, more cutely, “farmer fizz.” Like Harvey and Bob, they’re not gonna be beholden to any formula or predisposed notions of style. They work with their unique grapes, soil and current weather to make whatever Champagne suits the conditions best that year, and they’re making some damn good bubbly! Plus, during harvest they blast “Stuck in the Middle with You” from the Reservoir Dogs soundtrack into the vineyards while they’re picking grapes. OK, I made that last part up but admit it, you could totally picture that.
I’ve always bowed to Dom Pérignon, but after tasting about a dozen of these grower Champagnes last week I may have just driven off the studio lot. This one Fiacre was so good I was dying! It tasted like a perfect croissant – not too buttery but slightly honeyed and mouth-melty. They’re not as easy to find – Fiacre only made 1,000 cases as opposed to Dom’s half million! – but definitely worth seeking out. None of them were under $50, but compared to an $80 Billecart Salmon or $150 NV Dom, they’re actually a bargain.
Here are a few I tasted and loved:
- Chartogne-Taillet ‘Fiacre’ – this is their tête de cuvée (ie, best stuff a house makes) made from 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Noir. My birthday’s in June, thanks in advance! $70 here
- Gerard Loriot – this one’s all Pinot Meunier which is rare. Usually that grape’s the minority in a Chardonnay/Pinot Noir blend. But this was really flowery and refined with a fantastic floral aroma. $51
- Pouillon Rosé – darker pink hue due to 100% Pinot Noir, great strawberry/light cherry flavor. $55
K&L has a bunch you can order online, and if you live in New York state you can order some (including the Fiacre) from Maslow 6. Suck it (down), Michael Bay!