Australians love champagne, with figures just released showing the country is still holding strong as the 7th biggest market in the world and the largest outside of Europe; popping the corks on around 7 million bottles each year.
There’s a reluctance to stray from the familiar however, with major champagne houses dominating sales.
Conversely, grower champagne; those who both grow the grapes and make the wine as opposed to buying the grapes, make up less than 1% of total champagne sales in Australia. This is despite the fact there are around 5000 ‘grower-producers’ in the Champagne region.
“The fact that grower champagne sales are so insignificant compared to the better known houses, is a shame, but not surprising. Champagne is a luxury item and as such, people are prefer to put their ‘investment’ into buying a well-known brand,” says champagne educator Amanda Reboul.
There’s a quiet revolution underway however. Thanks in part to support by sommeliers, diners are slowly becoming more willing to experiment with champagne. Like Brisbane’s prestigious Aria Restaurant.
“We only stock around 8 of the major names compared to about 20 grower and smaller prestige champagnes,” says Ben Watson, assistant sommelier at Aria. “And we’ll often try to steer the diner to try something different. Grower champagnes tend to be a lot more focused in style and individual and can offer a lot more in the glass.”
Amanda Reboul agrees that while there is a place for both the big houses and grower champagnes, to get a true expression of terroir, we need to get a bit more adventurous.
“If people are open to tasting something new, grower champagnes are wonderful. Because they are made solely from grapes grown on their own property, the different soils and micro-climates within the Champagne region create their own distinct flavour profiles that are so much more evident in the grower champagnes.”
So, if you’re interested in expanding your knowledge and exploring some grower champagnes, here are five Amanda rates highly. (Try your local independent bottleshop like Craft Wine Store in Brisbane’s Red Hill)
Pierre Gimmonet et Fils – Over 200 years of perfecting the production of some of the best chardonnays in Champagne. The champagnes are a true expression of elegance and finesse of the region. RRP Blanc de Blancs $75. Special Club Vintage $150
Champagne Salmon 100% Meunier – These growers have perfected the production of meunier. Their 100% meunier is a treat and shows the interesting fruity role that meunier brings to a blend. RRP $75
Jacques Selosse – From the Cotes de Blanc and following organic/biodynamic practices. All of the wines are vinified in oak and have very distinctive characteristics. RRP ‘Initiale’ $275/ ‘Substance’ $450
Paul Barra Brut Reserve – From the Grand Cru village of Bouzy well known for its exceptional pinot noir. RRP $75