Caveau CHAMPAGNE Club
Scott is a lifelong lover of grower Champagne and started importing some hard-to-come-by gems in 2007 after years of research to complement our Burgundy imports. Small-grower Champagne means that the producers use only their own estate fruit to produce the wine, their production is small and the wines taste of their specific terroirs — in stark contrast to mass-produced Champagne houses that buy fruit from hundreds of growers and produce hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of cases! The Caveau Champagne Club will only include Grower Champagnes.
Much like our Caveau Burgundy Club, the Champagne Club’s main purpose is education. Twice a year, you’ll receive a 6-bottle shipment that will have a unifying theme — an exploration of vintage vs. nonvintage Champagne, or perhaps a focus on one appellation within Champagne, or a study of dosage level or the different varieties that make up Champagne. You will learn how Champagne is made, different styles and techniques, and better understand the region’s history, geology, villages, and people.
The Mechanics and the Perks:
As a member, you will receive:
- Free admission and tasting for you and a guest at our twice yearly club pick-up parties.
- Advance notice of all special classes that Scott teaches or dinners that we host.
- 6-bottle shipment in the Spring (March/April)
- 6-bottle shipment in the Fall (September/October)
- Educational Kit - at the time of each shipment we will email to you an extensive digital educational kit, produced by Scott, that is loaded with tasting and producer notes, maps and information on that shipment’s Champagne topic.
- AND - first access to pre-arrival wines Scott will be ordering for Spring and Fall deliveries
The Cost - the wine cost for each 6-bottle club pack will average $300, which reflects your 15% discount off the retail price of the wines (this sum does not include shipping). Your credit card will be charged when the wines are ready to be picked up (or shipped). There is no fee to join and you can cancel your subscription at any time.
Do we ship? Absolutely!
Membership is Limited:
It’s true - these wines are highly-allocated and produced in small quantities. If the club is full when you inquire, we will gladly put you on the waiting list.
Not in the Champagne Club yet? Sign-up here, right now!
Champagne Club educational kits:
- Spring 2017 Champagne Club educational kit
- Fall 2016 Champagne Club educational kit
- Spring 2016 Champagne Club educational kit
- Fall 2015 Champagne Club educational kit
- Spring 2015 Champagne Club educational kit
- Fall 2014 Champagne Club educational kits
- Spring 2014 Champagne Club educational kit
- Fall 2013 Champagne Club educational kit
We import exclusively, and this club features exclusively, Grower Champagne. Grower Champagnes are simply wines produced 100% from vineyards that are owned by the producer. It may surprise you to learn that over 88% of Champagne is Negociant Champagne – meaning that the wines are made with grapes purchased from dozens to hundreds of different growers from throughout the region.
The big names that you are likely familiar with – Moët et Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Mumm, Roederer, etc. – those are negociants. They produce millions of cases of wine, in an industrial fashion, from fruit grown mostly not by themselves, but by thousands of smaller growers across the 319 villages that make up the Champagne viticultural region.
Grower Champagnes, on the other hand, are made by small, family producers, growing grapes and making wines exclusively from their own vineyards. This is analogous to the small, family estates of Burgundy. The typical Grower Champagne producer makes fewer than 5,000 cases per year (in fact less than a dozen make more than 6,000 cases). There are nearly 5,000 of these small grower-producers in Champagne, but fewer than 250 of them are available here in the U.S.!
Required reading! - THE best article we've ever seen, expertly nailing what's going on in Champagne today. Courtesy of Jon Bonné at Punch.
Most negociant Champagne is mass-produced, often over-priced, and can be quite lacking in character. (A very small portion of it however, is outstanding, and in fact can be among the best in all of Champagne.) Negociant Champagne is hugely successful, and is certainly the world’s most celebrated wine. Unfortunately, most of it just isn’t very good. They produce 88% of the wine, but own only 12% of the vineyards. Their production methods are designed to bring the wines down to a lowest common denominator. Hence our motto – “Friends don’t let friends drink negociant Champagne!”
Champagne – Vocabulary and Classifications
• Champagne is the largest AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) in France. It covers a whopping 76,000 acres of vineyards, across 319 small villages and towns. Only wine made from this delimited area can be called Champagne. Sparkling wine made from other regions in France carries the appellation Crémant.
• There are nearly 20,000 vineyard owners in Champagne. Only about 5,000 of them produce wine from the grapes they grow. The other 15,000 sell all of their grapes to the large negociant houses.
• There are five distinct sub-regions of Champagne:
• Montagne de Reims – Encompasses several villages surrounding the city of Reims (pronounced “Rance”). Pinot Noir is the predominant grape. grown here, but there is significant Chardonnay and a little Pinot Meunier as well.
• Vallée de la Marne – Many villages strung along the Marne river, which cuts across Champagne from East to West. The largest percentage of acreage is planted to Pinot Meunier.
• Côte des Blancs – As the name suggests, this is white grape territory. Virtually everything in this sub-region is Chardonnay.
• Côte de Sezanne – A region of rapidly improving. All three grapes are grown here.
• The Aube (or The Bar) – An area on the rise, with a new generation of quality-focused growers emerging. Plantings are predominantly Pinot Noir.
Vineyard classification is radically different in Champagne as compared to Burgundy. In Burgundy, it is each individual piece of vineyard land that is classified. In Champagne, the entire village is classified – every vineyard within the boundaries of a village is given the same classification (though in fact certain sites within the village are clearly better than others, so this is a seriously imperfect system).
• Each village is given a numerical rating, on a scale of 100 percentage points. Champagne village ratings are as follows:
Grand Cru – Villages rated 100%
Premier Cru – Villages rated 90-99%
Deuxième Cru – Villages rated 80-89%
There are only 17 Grand Cru villages. The most familiar names among them would be Bouzy, Ambonnay, Oger, and le Mesnil-sur-Oger.
The percentage points refer to the price paid for grapes from each village by the negociants. Say the top-line price for a ton of Pinot Noir is set at $4,000 for this vintage. If you were selling grapes from a vineyard in a Grand Cru village, you would receive 100% of that price, the full $4,000. If you were selling grapes from a Premier Cru village rated at 95%, you would receive 95% of the top price, or $3,800 in this case.
• There are three main grape varieties allowed to be grown in Champagne:
Pinot Noir – which accounts for 37.5% of all plantings
Chardonnay – which accounts for 27.5%
Pinot Meunier – which accounts for 35%
• Pinot Meunier is a grape little seen outside of Champagne. It is extremely valuable as a blending grape, and adds lovely aromatics and light-bodied fruit to the wines, but is rarely used on its own, either in Champagne or in still wine. There are handful of 100% Pinot Meunier Champagnes that can be extraordinary.
• Most Champagne is a blend of two or more of the varieties, though some are made from only one of the three grapes.
• There are four main categories of wine in Champagne:
“Champagne” – made from a blend of two or three of the grape varieties, using both colors – i.e. Chardonnay and at least one of the two Pinot varieties
“Blanc de Blancs” – made exclusively from white grapes – i.e. 100% Chardonnay
“Blanc de Noirs” – made exclusively from the red (also known as “black”) grapes, either singly or a combination of the two.
“Rosé” – made from any combination of two or three of the varieties. The pink color is obtained either by blending in a portion of red still-wine, or by letting a portion of the juice macerate with the skins of the red grapes.
• But it’s all “white”! Yes, it is. It’s import to remember that the juice from all wine grapes is clear – it is only if you let the skins soak together with the juice that one gets any color from the “red” wine grapes. For Champagne, the Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes are treated just like the Chardonnay, in that the juice is pressed out immediately, and the juice is never in contact with the skins. Hence, “white” wine from red grapes.
• In addition to the four main categories of Champagne listed above, there is another classification based on the amount of residual sugar in the wine. Varying amounts of sugar are added to most Champagnes.
• The Seven Levels of Sweetness (or dryness, as the case may be):
Brut Nature (Also known as Brut Zero, Ultra Brut or Brut Sauvage) – less than 3 grams per liter
Extra Brut – Less than 6 grams/liter
Brut – Less than 12 grams/liter
Extra-sec – 12-20 grams/liter
Sec – 17-35 grams/liter
Demi-sec – 33-50 grams/liter
Doux – 50+ grams/liter
• In addition to all of the above classifications and categories, Champagnes also fall into one of the two following designations:
VINTAGE – A vintage Champagne is primarily, and sometimes entirely, from grapes grown in only one year. The appellation laws require a vintage-dated wine to be a minimum of 85% from the stated vintage – the other 15% can be from one of more other vintages. A producer may produce a vintage wine from whatever vintages he or she wishes – though most will not make vintage wine in the lesser quality years. It is up to the individual producer to decide whether a vintage wine will be produced in a given year. Vintage wines must age a minimum of three years prior to release. Only 10-15% of all Champagne is vintage-dated.
NON-VINTAGE – 85-90% of all Champagne is non-vintage, meaning that the wine is a blend from grapes grown in two or more years. Regulations require that at least 30% of the wine be from one vintage, but up to 70% can be from an unlimited number of older vintages. It is often said that the essence of non- vintage Champagne is the art of blending – using many different components and building blocks to arrive at a consistent flavor profile and character.