What is a "grower" Champagne?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

I keep seeing the term “grower Champagne.” What does it mean?

—Griffin, Austin, Texas

Dear Griffin,

There’s a growing number of grower-producers from the Champagne region of France, called récoltant-manipulant, who make “grower Champagne.”

While the concept of making wine from your own grapes is widespread in other winegrowing regions in the world, it’s pretty uncommon in Champagne. Most Champagne—the vast majority, actually—is made by large Champagne houses or négociants who blend their sparkling wines from purchased grapes grown in multiple sites.

Récoltants-manipulants are producers who make Champagne from vines they own and farm themselves. Even though the category is growing, it still only represents about 5 percent of the Champagne in the U.S. market. Since traditional Champagne is often blended not just from multiple sources but also multiple vintages for consistency’s sake (easier to do when you have a big operation), grower Champagne can be more distinctive, made from individual vineyards or parcels, and typically dominated by a single vintage.

—Dr. Vinny

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