Champagne, perhaps more than any other wine region in the world, is recognized for its high profile, big brand names. Grande Marque (essentially “big brand) houses like Veuve Cliquot, Moet & Chandon, Louis Roederer are famililar to just about anyone who has ever celebrated with a bottle of bubbly. However if one looks more closely, in fact the kingdom of Champagne is comprised of an elaborate infrastructure of grape growers, family owned domains, co-operatives and dominant multi-national companies. Case in point, take a look at LVMH.
Here is a quick breakdown..
-Presently there exist approximately 19,000 independent growers whose vineyards account for almost 90% of the total vineyard land (33,000 hectares ) planted to grapes in Champagne.
-Of these 19,000 growers, approximately 5000 of them actually make wine from their own grapes.
-Throughout the region, approximately 100 Champagne houses produce wine from their own vineyard holdings as well as purchase fruit from independent growers.
-In addition, co-operative cellars will also pool their resources, vinify and sell or sometimes market their own wines.
Negotiating who makes what and how is much easier than one might think. All you need to do is look for the fine print on the label, as the set of 2 letter abbreviations will provide information as to which category of production a Champagne belongs. The three most signifcant abbreviations to recognize and understand are outlined below. Please keep in mind that these classifications are not qualitative ones. There are great NMs, mediocre CM’s and lackluster RMs, or vice versa..Check it out..
NM (négociant manipulant) -These producers buy fruit from independent growers and also produce wine. They will most often also maintain their own vineyard holdings. Most of the larger Champagne houses and/or Grandes Marques domains fall into this category.
Examples of NM producers in Champagne:
Moet & Chandon
RM (récoltant manipulant) ..is often also referred to as grower-producer champagne. These producers may only use up to 5% purchased grapes in the production of their wines. 95% must come from their proper vineyard holdings.
Examples of RM producers in Champagne:
CM (coopérative de manipulation) A Champagne with the CM abbreviation signifies that the wine was produced by a co-operative cellar. More specifically, the co-op will produce wine with grapes sourced from its grape growers who are members. The co-operative can then market its production. Perhaps the most famous is CM Brand is Champagne Nicolas Feuillatte.
But wait, there’s more!
The following abbreviations are also utilized, however they are not often encountered in the US market.
SR: (société de récoltants) An association of grape growers who collectively produce a wine, but are not members of a co-operative.
RC: (récoltant coopérateur) A co-operative member who sells a wine produced by the co-op, but under their own name and label.
MA: (marque auxiliaire or marque d’acheteur) Essentially a “brand name” and one that is not owned by the grower or producer of the wine, but rather a supermarket or restaurant chain. Also commonly referred to as a B.O.B or “buyer’s own brand”.
ND: (négociant distributeur) A wine merchant who markets a Champagne under his/her own name.
O.K. that’s it. I am exhausted..
Time for a glass of champagne!