Marcia Waters - Master of Wine

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Marcia Waters

Champagne, visiting and enjoying.

December 11th 2015

Years ago I visited Champagne as the guest of Louis Roederer during a heady week of learning about fizz, its history and how wonderful the Grande Marques Houses are. At the end of the week I took an exam along with my 15 fellow students and we graduated to become Champagne Academicians. What a fantastic piece of marketing to make us life-long ambassadors of the famous, establishment Champagnes houses. Since then my working needs took me to large co-operatives and negociants to buy for supermarket own label. And that is really how the market, especially in the UK was split - famous brands and own label. the occasional newcomer like Nicholas Feuillatte or Jacquesson made an inroad into the market pretending to e established brands by using a substantial budget and the chance to be championed by a powerful retailer like Oddbins or Majestic. How could small, individual growers compete? Traditionally growers sold their grapes to the big brands, or the local so-operative and had no equipment or expertise of their own. There's a lot of equipment needed to ferment, blend, ferment again, riddle, disgorge and all the complicated processes that make champagne so special and expensive. there's also a lot of money tied up for years before the wine is ready for sale. But after a few years of consistently strong market for their sparkles more and more growers were prepared to invest in the expertise as well as the equipment. Many started simply by having an allocation of bottles back from the co-op they had sold their grapes to. These finished bottles could be sold from their own farm gate with their own name and label. Plenty of Parisians, Brits and Dutch stopped off and bought directly from the grower and everyone was happy to cut out the middle man.
Roll forward a few years to my trip just now and I am overwhelmed by the number of individual growers' wines I could buy. Keep reading for suggestions how to find your way around them.

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