Those who read this column regularly know that for the most part I rarely hype the latest and greatest of the wine world. It is not that I am a curmudgeon; it is just that those trends are rarely great.
The most recent example is the — hopefully — on-its-last-legs “natural wine craze,” which has proven to be a way for really bad and usually quite inexperienced winemakers to sell their really bad wine. But, if not for them, what would the tight-pants-Fedora-wearing hipsters have to swill — I mean, enjoy?
That is why I have sat back and observed the grower-producer Champagnes, or GPCs, for several years until I was assured of both the quality and value of these wines. Well, hip hip hooray; this is a movement worth moving on especially while the warm weather is still in full song.
In line with my mission to make you all wine insiders, we will start with the Champagne region’s dirty big secret — and sorry to burst your bubble. Sacré bleu, horrible pun? Those pricey bottles of non-vintage Champagne are not small-lot artisan wines; they are produced by the boatload. To be fair, I have to admit, despite the voluminous volumes, those sparklers are pretty darn good; but are purposely the same as they ever were because the big houses strive for consistency above all else.
That is where GPCs come into play. These are the underdogs who previously sold their grapes to the Champagne giants, who turned them into beaucoup bucks — and purposely tasty, generic sparklers.
GPCs on the other hand are from small specific sites and not only reflect those sights but also their vintage. Even when they are non-vintage classified, they often have back-label designations of the year in which most of the grapes were harvested. As a result, they are wines of distinction: distinct terroir, distinct vintage and distinct winemaking. As a bonus, they tend to skew to the mid-level of Champagne prices.
What can one expect when branching out into the grower-producer Champagne world? Well, like the big-box brands you will get fresh, crisp, lithe-bodied bubblies. However, instead of a consistency, you will adventure into varied flavor profiles that can range from fruit forward to minerally to downright earthy.
This may beg the questions: “But, Mr. Vino Guy, how do I get me some GPCs? And, if they are so unique, how do I find one in my preferred style?”
Glad you asked. Solution No. 1 is as always to visit your friendly neighborhood wine purveyor because he or she will tend to be inordinately proud of and knowledgeable about GPCs. No. 2 is Google it; producer’s Web sites of these artisan winemakers typically tell you just what to expect.