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【Macau Daily Times】Grow your own


Let’s do the math. To make a single bottle of champagne, it requires the grapes from at least one vine. The cost of those grapes is eight or nine euros. Then there’s the super heavy glass bottle itself, that costs about half a euro; then the cork, the basket, the label. This means that just the cost of the raw materials needed to produce a bottle of champagne exceeds 10 euros. No wonder champagne is so expensive! Further, it is said that about 10 per cent of the price of a bottle of champagne from one of the big houses is how much it costs to have that champagne marketed to you! But beyond those bill board names – Moet, Veuve, Lanson and so on – is a developing trend for what are known as “grower” champagnes. This trend started about 15 years ago, when those grape growers who had traditionally sold their grapes to the big boys, decided to start bottling their own champagne under their own name.
Claudio De Villemor Salgado, consul general for greater China of the Ordre des Coteaux de Champagne stresses that Grower Champagnes are not necessarily better – or “less good” – than the Grandes Marques. “They are just very different,” he explains, “and also different one from another.”

Grower Champagnes are intended to express terroir – the unique combination of characteristics of a particular vineyard or series of vineyards, and in particular soil and micro-climate. They allow the champagne lover to begin to understand the difference between a Chardonnay (blanc de blancs) from Avize and, say, one from Mesnil-sur-Oger, a pair of villages which are both grand cru appellations. To understand which part of which sub-region gives Pinot Noir a particularly pronounced minerality. To get to try a champagne made exclusively from Pinot Meunier.

Thierry Massin Brut Millesime 2005
Area: Ville Sur Arce, Champagne, France
Grape: 70% Pinot Noir, 30% Chardonnay
Colour/style: Dry. 12%
Available at: Tina Cellar
Price: MOP 530

It smells of lemon and coffee?! Whoever would have thought that a champagne could brim with such a singular personality. This is a fabulously unusual and striking champagne, illustrating what heights can be achieved at detail-orientated grower level (for example, tank filling is done by gravity to avoid stressing the must). Brother and sister team, Thierry and Dominique, took over the family estate in 1977, benefiting from airy soils to bring a lovely lightness to their Pinot Noir. This wine is only 30% Chardonnay but still shows a high level of elegance. It is supple, moving generously across the palate, and finishes smooth and creamy.

Champagne Serveaux Brut Blanc de Noirs
Area: Passy-sur-Marne, Champagne, France
Grape: 100% Pinot Meunier
Colour/style: Dry. 12%
Available at: Tina Cellar
Price: MOP 385

It is a rarity in Champagne to find a 100% Pinot Meunier, a grape which tends to be seen as playing second fiddle to Pinor Noir and Chardonnay. If Pinot Noir brings the body, and Chardonnay the elegance, Pinot Meunier, when grown carefully, brings aromas and fruit characters. Certainly there’s a striking red currant note to this salivatingly delicious wine with, unusually, intriguing notes of vanilla and even wheat: one third of the blend is matured in barrel for six months. It is super fresh because there’s no malolactic fermentation, a fact which also means that this champagne ages more slowly.


Annabel Jackson is a wine and food writer, consultant and educator. She is a part-time lecturer at IFT.

Source: Macau Daily Times

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