Article: The era of grower Champagnes is over

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Re: Article: The era of grower Champagnes is over

#101 Post by Brad Baker » July 30th, 2020, 10:06 am

William,

All valid points. You can very easily state that Anselme has risen as the star, godfather of the modern grower movement. From my view, when it comes to the roots of the modern grower movement, I think it depends on how you choose to look at things. Do you look at Champagne as a whole when looking at the movement or do you focus more on the actions of one person? To me, Ansleme didn't invent/establish the modern grower game or establish team modern grower, but eventually became the star of it. There is no denying his influence on a number of folks especially growers who have taken over their family estates in the last fifteen years. On the bad/sad side, it also seems that anyone who even worked alongside Anselme for a week is thrust up on a mantle as the next superstar in Champagne (even if the wines are not all that great). Equally, some folks who worked with or were influenced by Selosse take offense at Anselme getting some credit for their success. You would think they would be thankful especially when it is clear that the association with Selosse was a huge help, but some aren't. That isn't to say that a lot of folks who worked with Anselme or were profoundly influenced by him do not make great wines, they do.

Clearly, a number of growers began doing things differently in the 1970s and early 1980s. Champagne changed a lot in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Barrels disappeared, vineyard practices went to crap, yields started rising, harvesting depended more on numbers on paper rather than also including tasting, instinct, and lessons learned. Laval, Andre Beaufort, Leclerc-Briant, and Tarlant were other early leaders in doing things differently and fighting against some/all the changes at this time. Some of them before Anselme started.

What I love most about Anselme is that he is always changing and always questioning. He tried strict organic and biodynamic and decided it was better to be free of constraints. Today, if you ask him what he think best represents Champagne and his work, he would tell you that a blend across multiple vintages and multiple sites is the pinnacle. Anything else is too climate and/or site specific and simply a paint stroke on or portion of the final picture. That is a very different view than he once had. If there is nothing else that folks can learn from Ansleme it is to pay attention to every detail of your work, have a purpose for doing or not doing something, strive to let nature express itself naturally, never stop questioning, and never stop learning. It really isn't about using barrels, new oak, battonage, perpetual blends, etc... You can't just copy what Selosse does and be successful. The passion, energy, kindness, and damn the torpedos personality of Anselme is what has made him the poster grower of the modern movement.

Diving into more details, I like to look at the modern grower movement in waves. The start (to me) and wave one was the start of the Club Tresors/Special Club/Club des Viticulteurs Champenois in 1970/1971 with a first release in 1972. Funny thing is that of the twelve producers that actually founded the Club, two of them were negociants (Cattier and Bardoux). As the club gained members and set a charter prior to the first release, Cattier and Bardoux left/had to leave because they weren't... growers. Only in Champagne could you start a grower's club without being a grower (to be fair, at the start, the initial discussion was more about quality small producers using their own grapes before it changed as more growers joined in). The next or second wave to me started around 1990 when some top growers began to gain attention for their quality (and often different) work in the vineyards and winery; true grower global exportation also began to start. This would include people like Diebolt-Vallois, Selosse, Egly-Ouriet, Vilmart, etc... Wave three would be the early to mid-2000s when a new generation took over and started to change the direction of their family estates. Alexandre Chartogne, Fred Savart, Nicolas Maillart, Francois Hure, Raphael and Vincent Bereche, David Leclapart, Tarlant, Bertrand Gautherot, Jerome Prevost, Olivier Collin, Cedric Bouchard etc... are part of this wave. This third wave is really where I think you start to see the influence and impact of what Anselme did. I feel a fourth wave is going on now with many of the new folks starting to make me feel old and not necessarily just taking over a family estate with a generational change (as with wave three), but finding many different ways to express their passion, hard work, and new ideas - Flavien Nowak, Adrien Dhondt, Mathilde Margaine, Remi Leroy, Benoit Dehu, Sebastien Mouzon, Etienne Calsac, etc... are folks I think about in this wave.

Getting back to Tyson's article - it would be a good thing if bad growers would sell/lease their land to producers big and small who would do a better job with it. Similarly, if you are good grower, but bad winemaker, it isn't a bad thing if you sell your grapes to a quality producer who can make a much better wine than you can.
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Re: Article: The era of grower Champagnes is over

#102 Post by Brad Baker » July 30th, 2020, 3:04 pm

In regards to my comment above about Cattier and Bardoux not being growers, founding the Club, and then leaving the Club prior to the first release of wines, I cannot recall if either of them were truly negociants at the time or if they were just thinking about making the change. Cattier was a grower for a while before becoming a negociant and Bardoux has spent most/all of its existence as a grower. One or two of the Club producers actually did become negociants for most wines, but kept an RM label and a 'grower company' to put out their Speical Club. Today, the bylaws of the group will allow a grower to become a negociant as long as the Club wine is from 100% estate fruit and the Club approves in general of the producer and the quality of their negociant activities.
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Re: Article: The era of grower Champagnes is over

#103 Post by Sean S y d n e y » July 30th, 2020, 3:32 pm

Brad Baker wrote:
July 30th, 2020, 3:04 pm
In regards to my comment above about Cattier and Bardoux not being growers, founding the Club, and then leaving the Club prior to the first release of wines, I cannot recall if either of them were truly negociants at the time or if they were just thinking about making the change. Cattier was a grower for a while before becoming a negociant and Bardoux has spent most/all of its existence as a grower. One or two of the Club producers actually did become negociants for most wines, but kept an RM label and a 'grower company' to put out their Speical Club. Today, the bylaws of the group will allow a grower to become a negociant as long as the Club wine is from 100% estate fruit and the Club approves in general of the producer and the quality of their negociant activities.
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Re: Article: The era of grower Champagnes is over

#104 Post by Nick Christie » July 30th, 2020, 4:09 pm

Sean S y d n e y wrote:
July 30th, 2020, 3:32 pm
Brad Baker wrote:
July 30th, 2020, 3:04 pm
In regards to my comment above about Cattier and Bardoux not being growers, founding the Club, and then leaving the Club prior to the first release of wines....
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Re: Article: The era of grower Champagnes is over

#105 Post by Nick Christie » July 30th, 2020, 4:21 pm

By the way, I quite enjoyed that short essay at 101, Brad. Very well presented. Lots of passion and quite thorough.

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Re: Article: The era of grower Champagnes is over

#106 Post by William Kelley » July 31st, 2020, 11:38 am

Nick Christie wrote:
July 30th, 2020, 4:21 pm
By the way, I quite enjoyed that short essay at 101, Brad. Very well presented. Lots of passion and quite thorough.
Me too!
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Re: Article: The era of grower Champagnes is over

#107 Post by Nathan V. » July 31st, 2020, 12:31 pm

Brad Baker wrote:
July 30th, 2020, 10:06 am
William,

All valid points. You can very easily state that Anselme has risen as the star, godfather of the modern grower movement. From my view, when it comes to the roots of the modern grower movement, I think it depends on how you choose to look at things. Do you look at Champagne as a whole when looking at the movement or do you focus more on the actions of one person? To me, Ansleme didn't invent/establish the modern grower game or establish team modern grower, but eventually became the star of it. There is no denying his influence on a number of folks especially growers who have taken over their family estates in the last fifteen years. On the bad/sad side, it also seems that anyone who even worked alongside Anselme for a week is thrust up on a mantle as the next superstar in Champagne (even if the wines are not all that great). Equally, some folks who worked with or were influenced by Selosse take offense at Anselme getting some credit for their success. You would think they would be thankful especially when it is clear that the association with Selosse was a huge help, but some aren't. That isn't to say that a lot of folks who worked with Anselme or were profoundly influenced by him do not make great wines, they do.

Clearly, a number of growers began doing things differently in the 1970s and early 1980s. Champagne changed a lot in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. Barrels disappeared, vineyard practices went to crap, yields started rising, harvesting depended more on numbers on paper rather than also including tasting, instinct, and lessons learned. Laval, Andre Beaufort, Leclerc-Briant, and Tarlant were other early leaders in doing things differently and fighting against some/all the changes at this time. Some of them before Anselme started.

What I love most about Anselme is that he is always changing and always questioning. He tried strict organic and biodynamic and decided it was better to be free of constraints. Today, if you ask him what he think best represents Champagne and his work, he would tell you that a blend across multiple vintages and multiple sites is the pinnacle. Anything else is too climate and/or site specific and simply a paint stroke on or portion of the final picture. That is a very different view than he once had. If there is nothing else that folks can learn from Ansleme it is to pay attention to every detail of your work, have a purpose for doing or not doing something, strive to let nature express itself naturally, never stop questioning, and never stop learning. It really isn't about using barrels, new oak, battonage, perpetual blends, etc... You can't just copy what Selosse does and be successful. The passion, energy, kindness, and damn the torpedos personality of Anselme is what has made him the poster grower of the modern movement.

Diving into more details, I like to look at the modern grower movement in waves. The start (to me) and wave one was the start of the Club Tresors/Special Club/Club des Viticulteurs Champenois in 1970/1971 with a first release in 1972. Funny thing is that of the twelve producers that actually founded the Club, two of them were negociants (Cattier and Bardoux). As the club gained members and set a charter prior to the first release, Cattier and Bardoux left/had to leave because they weren't... growers. Only in Champagne could you start a grower's club without being a grower (to be fair, at the start, the initial discussion was more about quality small producers using their own grapes before it changed as more growers joined in). The next or second wave to me started around 1990 when some top growers began to gain attention for their quality (and often different) work in the vineyards and winery; true grower global exportation also began to start. This would include people like Diebolt-Vallois, Selosse, Egly-Ouriet, Vilmart, etc... Wave three would be the early to mid-2000s when a new generation took over and started to change the direction of their family estates. Alexandre Chartogne, Fred Savart, Nicolas Maillart, Francois Hure, Raphael and Vincent Bereche, David Leclapart, Tarlant, Bertrand Gautherot, Jerome Prevost, Olivier Collin, Cedric Bouchard etc... are part of this wave. This third wave is really where I think you start to see the influence and impact of what Anselme did. I feel a fourth wave is going on now with many of the new folks starting to make me feel old and not necessarily just taking over a family estate with a generational change (as with wave three), but finding many different ways to express their passion, hard work, and new ideas - Flavien Nowak, Adrien Dhondt, Mathilde Margaine, Remi Leroy, Benoit Dehu, Sebastien Mouzon, Etienne Calsac, etc... are folks I think about in this wave.

Getting back to Tyson's article - it would be a good thing if bad growers would sell/lease their land to producers big and small who would do a better job with it. Similarly, if you are good grower, but bad winemaker, it isn't a bad thing if you sell your grapes to a quality producer who can make a much better wine than you can.
The first "grower" Champagnes I encountered in the early 1990s were Selosse, Guy Larmandier, Tarlant and Egly-Ouriet. The first, brought in by Bobby Kacher and always on the list at Bistro Francaise in DC, the second by Neal Rosenthal and the latter two were Vézan Selections and brought in market by market. The next big jump for me was in the mid-90s, thanks mainly to Terry Theise, this is when I got into Peters, Larmandier-Bernier, Vilmart and others but the first three are who I glommed onto. These marked the floodgates opening and my first visit to Champagne.

The 3rd wave is Collin, Suenen, Savart, Leclapart, etc.

Where does Ledru fit into all of this? I didn't find out about her until the mid to late oughts but my impression is that she had been doing her own thing for a while.

Anyhow, enjoyed reading the discussion. I love intellectual history in general and am always interested when it comes to wine.
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Re: Article: The era of grower Champagnes is over

#108 Post by Brad Baker » July 31st, 2020, 3:41 pm

Nathan,

Ledru really doesn't fit nicely into the picture as she flew under the radar for too long, but you could put her into the 3rd wave as an honorary member. Marie-Noelle and her wines really started to get a lot of attention around the same time as what I called the 3rd wave did and a lot of the 3rd wave producers held her in high esteem. She certainly doesn't fit the mold of what the 3rd wave is, but I think the members of the 3rd way had a lot to do with her finally getting the attention she deserved. Sadly, it came in the last third of her career. It would have been interesting to see what would have happened if she had gained popularity/attention sooner. Would she have been able to cut back sooner and more deeply on selling most of her production to negociants? Would the family have been able to work out their land ownership/usage differences? We will never know.

A lot of producers don't fit nicely into the waves I described and you could even say that some are members of multiple waves. Pierre Peters is one that you could make a case was a member of the 1st, 2nd, and 3rd wave via being a Special Club member, part of the first big global import group, and then Rodolphe taking over and chaning things up a bit from what his father Francois did.
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Re: Article: The era of grower Champagnes is over

#109 Post by emile bond » July 31st, 2020, 4:01 pm

Mr. Baker, what are your thoughts regarding Fallet-Prevostat(Fallet-Crouzet, Fallet-Gouron, Fallet-M) regardless if Producer fits nicely into your described waves or not? Thank you for your contributions.

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Re: Article: The era of grower Champagnes is over

#110 Post by R. Frankel » July 31st, 2020, 4:27 pm

Great discussion, representing the best of what this board can offer. Serious professionals in discussion with us wine loving Berserkers. Like many, I’m soaking it up and pondering which Champagne to open tonight. Probably a Vilmart Grand Cellier Brut champagne.gif.

When this Covid nightmare ends I’d love to attend a master class with Brad and William. Discussion, debate, history, and maybe some sipping. Gentlemen, I’m sure it would sell out quickly.
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Re: Article: The era of grower Champagnes is over

#111 Post by Brad Baker » August 1st, 2020, 9:46 am

emile bond wrote:
July 31st, 2020, 4:01 pm
Mr. Baker, what are your thoughts regarding Fallet-Prevostat(Fallet-Crouzet, Fallet-Gouron, Fallet-M) regardless if Producer fits nicely into your described waves or not? Thank you for your contributions.
I enjoy the wines and they are held in high regard by many in Champagne. For a long time, they were rather hard to find unless you had access to visit the domaine (and they were willing to receive you), but things have loosened up now and stopping by is not as difficult and the wines actually see some distribution outside of the winery (and Belgium). They are a classic, old school Avize producer. Rustic, spciy apple, and good structure. The wines are made in older oak and normally see at least six years of lees aging prior to disgorgement. The blend is usually of two consecutive vintages and the wine currently comes in Brut, Extra Brut, and no dosage. In the past, they occassionally did some special cuvees and even a vintage, but I haven't seen anything other than the standard NV range since 2000.
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Re: Article: The era of grower Champagnes is over

#112 Post by emile bond » August 1st, 2020, 12:07 pm

Brad Baker wrote:
August 1st, 2020, 9:46 am
emile bond wrote:
July 31st, 2020, 4:01 pm
Mr. Baker, what are your thoughts regarding Fallet-Prevostat(Fallet-Crouzet, Fallet-Gouron, Fallet-M) regardless if Producer fits nicely into your described waves or not? Thank you for your contributions.
I enjoy the wines and they are held in high regard by many in Champagne. For a long time, they were rather hard to find unless you had access to visit the domaine (and they were willing to receive you), but things have loosened up now and stopping by is not as difficult and the wines actually see some distribution outside of the winery (and Belgium). They are a classic, old school Avize producer. Rustic, spciy apple, and good structure. The wines are made in older oak and normally see at least six years of lees aging prior to disgorgement. The blend is usually of two consecutive vintages and the wine currently comes in Brut, Extra Brut, and no dosage. In the past, they occassionally did some special cuvees and even a vintage, but I haven't seen anything other than the standard NV range since 2000.
Thank you, Mr. Baker.
I greatly appreciate your feedback.
The information you describe is exactly how I have been advised, i.e. 2 consecutive vintages, 6-7+ years en tirage, etc.
I am a big fan of the wines and still fondly recall the first time I was exposed to wines.
The only label I have never seen/drunk is Fallet-M.
We enjoyed a bottle in Italy, i.e. Uliassi in Senegallia, so they are distributed in Italy.
I have seen wines at retail in Paris.
There is simply not much information regarding wines other than what you have shared, and I am always wanting to learn more.

I wonder what proportion of Grower champagne is distributed to, or purchased at cellar door by, Belgium?
Our only stay at Hotel Avize and tasting with Monseuir Selosse 8 years ago included 2 couples from Belgium stuffing the trunks of their respective, Porsche Cayenne with Champagne from their visits throughout the region.

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