The author says that he has enjoyed many fine Champagnes made by the accepted conventions today. But he points out a number of factors that have resulted in the dominance of the accepted way of making Champagne, and how they limit the quality that is possible. To do this, he provides a history of how Champagne came to be a sparkling wine, from what was seen as faulty, to what became a trend and fad. The role of the negociant which morphed into the Champagne houses as we know them today took away from the work of the grower, yet the two groups are symbiotically linked, even today. The magic of marketing has made Champagne the glamour wine it is today, and with all parties making a good living, there is no incentive to change the modus operandi. Walters points out that vast sums of money are spent in perpetuating the image and status quo, with benefits to the region as well as all the players.
The author asserts that an increasing number of growers who are making their own Champagne wine are showing the degree of terroir, character and quality that puts them into the league of some of the world’s best winemakers, with wines of remarkable interest. The reality is that the amount of wine made this way is infinitesimal, but the wines are noteworthy and truly significant. Walters suggests these wines should be judged to the same criteria as other great wines of the world, rather than conventional Champagne. Winegrowing, rather than winemaking, and authenticity are key factors to their production, as is respecting the soils and sites. Organics and biodynamics are found here. Yields are invariably low, and the fruit more often than not vinified and bottled separately to demonstrate terroir. The grower-producer Champagnes tend to be dry, avoiding significant dosage, in the attempt by growers for minimal inputs.
Bursting Bubbles, By Robert Walters
Quiller Publishing, Shrewsbury, 2017, ISBN 978-1-84689-254-7