“Remember, gentlemen, it’s not just France we are fighting for, it’s champagne!” –Winston Churchill, British statesman and former Prime Minister of the United Kingdom

Champagne is season less.  While I may change my preference from red to white wine, from Cabernet Sauvignon to Sauvignon Blanc depending on the season and what I’m eating, I can enjoy Champagne in every season.  In all weather. At all times.  And, if I put some thought into it, I can pair a Champagne to every meal. Each course!

But as with most wines (remember the Merlot crash after “Sideways”?) Champagne too has its trends.  “Pet Nat” was hot.  That alone is interesting given that Pétillant Naturel is an ancient technique (méthode ancestral, otherwise known as rurale) of making sparkling wine and it long pre-dates modern, twice-fermented Champagne.  While I have no concerns with people preferring the taste of wine that has not yet completed its first fermentation, has not been disgorged and may not have been filtered, I’m not jumping on the hipster bus just because some influential SOMM has discovered it in the 21st century.

Another hot issue with Champagne drinkers is Recolant-Manipulant, known as “Grower Champagne.”  These bottles are identified by the abbreviation “RM” or the full wording on the label. It refers to a grower who makes and markets Champagne under their own label, from grapes of their own vineyards and processed on their own premises.  Conversely, the initials “NM” stand for Négociant-Manipulant.  These are the large Champagne houses that source a majority of their grapes rather than growing them.
Frankly, I’ve always been impressed by the wizardry of these Merlin-like Master Blenders for these large houses. Working with different growers, and perhaps even some estate grapes, and always different vintages, and reserve wines, they develop a house style that remains consistent year after year.  Weather is variable.  The wine is not.  Such skill is to be admired; not brushed aside casually because of a transient trend.

And as with still wines, grapes being estate grown is no guarantee by itself that the wine will be superior to that made from sourced grapes.   While estate grown grapes assure choice selection and other benefits, there are many wineries with huge numbers of fans that make consistently highly awarded wines from grapes that have been sourced.  So, if I haven’t blathered on too long already, let me just add that it’s really all about the wine, not the fashion.  It’s about what’s inside the bottle. And it’s either good or it’s not.  And most times, in these sophisticated times, with all of technology’s exactness, it is -  more so now than in the past.

I suppose that should position me well, or at least objectively, on the subject of Grower Champagne.  That said.  This wine is good.  And its price point (with an ARP of $42) is sounding the bargain gong.  Perhaps the ARP has to do with the layers of cost add-ons and not having to buy grapes.  And since I haven’t tasted all the Grower Champagnes out there, whatever my opinion should not be extrapolated to cover all such labeling.

Bruno Michel also produces a Cuvee Blanche brut, which I do think is the best value out there (at $39.99) for brut Champagne. But that’s just my personal palate. With few exceptions, I prefer “white” over rose.  And if I find occasion to open his Blanc de Blancs Cuvee “Pauline” (a vintage Champagne and aged in barrel), I suspect I’ll be singing its praises too.

The rose is 60% Chardonnay and 40% Pinot Meunier from the estate’s organic, biodynamic vineyards and made organically in the saignee winemaking method. In the glass, its color is assertive as is its aroma.  Notes of rose and vanilla waft from the glass joined by a faint taste of orange.  Others enjoy tart cranberry, pomegranate and spice.  On the palate, cherry and vanilla strike, followed by strawberry mid palate. Others enjoyed raspberry joined by tastes carried from the aromas.  This is very easy drinking and smooth. Unlike his Cuvee Blanche, fruit dominates in the rose, subduing – even obstructing – its autolytic character.  There’s a clean somewhat sweet lemon-lime hint (as in the soft drink) that make this wine perhaps too easy drinking for me.  But I suspect it is also what would make it perfect for those who do not relish the yeasty side of Champagne.

This is fresh, clean and fruity.  Light and fun.  Easy drinking.  The snobs may translate these references as pejoratives, but here it from me: it ain’t meant to be so.  It is meant to describe a Champagne that certainly does well as an aperitif, and pairs well too with a dessert made with red berries or a crumble of rhubarb and strawberries.  In between, consider it a natural for tuna, shrimp, duck breasts sauced with cherries. A beet risotto course, roasted chicken (red meat) or chicken sofrito (even better).  Consider it the bottle you want to keep chilled and at the ready when time is being strained by commitments and you need to put things together quickly.   A simple plate of vegetables and dip, joined with another of fresh and dried fruits, caramelized pecans and slices of cheese.  In between, conversation and sips.  Finish with a custardy tart with fresh berries.  Critics talk about complexity.  I found this wine a simple joy.  The innocence of just being happy for a moment.  Anything wrong with that? 

……………. Jim

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Bruno Michel:
ALC:                      12%

Imported By:      Terraneo Merchants
RS                         6g/L                                                                               


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