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Exploring a New Year with grower Champagne

Who says a New Year’s resolution has to start in January?

Gaston Chiquet Blanc de Blancs d'Ay NV
Gaston Chiquet Blanc de Blancs d’Ay NV

After all, throughout history the actual New Year began anywhere from 1 January to 29 August or even 1 March.

Plus, if you are listening to the conspiracy theorists, the world will end on 21 December 2012 anyhow. What better reason to start your New Year’s resolution now?

I already know exactly what mine will be: enjoy at least one new Champagne per month through to the end of 2013. To make my goal even more interesting, I will focus on grower Champagnes. (The owner of the estate not only grows the grapes, but produces the wine as well.)

To get myself started, I attended a sparkling wine event at a local wine shop, St. Louis Wine Market. The owners put together a fabulous tasting with over 25 bubblies. I took my time, pairing the wines with food selections of pulled pork or leg of lamb sandwiches, fresh cheeses, and of course, crisps. I made my way through the traditional and always impressive Bollinger Special Cuvée Brut and Perrier-Jouët Belle Epoque. Then, I was on to the grower Champagnes. The Wine Market had several on its list. Here are a few that I sampled:

Henri Goutorbe Brut Rose NV

NV Gaston Chicquet Blanc de Blanc d’Ay (92 points Wine Advocate)
NV Henri Goutorbe Brut Rose (93 points Wine Advocate)
NV Pierre Peters Cuvee de Reserve (92 points Wine Advocate)

I’ve noticed something special about the way Grower Champagnes taste: the terroir. Terroir is that great French term that we can try to explain, but cannot totally define.

When you¹re drinking a wine that came from one vineyard, made by a winemaker whose family has most likely owned the land for many generations, something tastes different. More prevalent are aromas and flavours that are a result of the environment, soil and the love the vigneron has for his grapes. Perhaps even the hands of the winemaker influence a great Champagne’s terroir.

Pierre Peters Cuvee de Reserve

Grower Champagnes are becoming easier to find. Maybe the wines are more visible because people like the idea of supporting a small family-owned business.

Or, drinkers are feeling adventurous with their choice of bubbly. Whatever the cause, the effect is greater selection in your local wine shop and favourite restaurants.

Next time you look, don¹t be surprised to see a couple grower options blended with the big-name Champagnes on the list. A well-known St. Louis restaurant has even put a grower Champagne holiday dinner on their events calendar!

As for the price point, grower Champagnes usually don¹t cost more than the labels you may be familiar with. For example, the H. Goutorbe listed above is about US$5 less expensive than the Bollinger and both received the same rating by Wine Advocate.

I hope you decide to join me and start your New Year’s Resolution early. It will be a lot more fun than some other goals you could set. The only set back is, once you find a new favourite grower Champagne, it could be hard not to keep buying it.

Better just get two bottles in that case. Cheers!

Follow Ashley on twitter: @HollyHavok

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