On this Valentine’s Day, I thought it a propos to celebrate with the most romantic libation that is truly universal with its symbolism, champagne. Many countries have their distinctive beverage be it ouzo in Greece, grappa in Italy but champagne from France is something one can find and enjoy almost anywhere in the world. That being said, grower champagnes, namely the bubblies crafted by the growers or recoltants as they are known in Champagne, are less available given their limited production and distribution. One such grower, Pierre Peters, has been in business since 1858 and is now run by 6th generation winemaker Rodolphe Peters, whom I had the pleasure of meeting in December on my 25th trip to France. Having worked with several of the grandes marques, I hadn’t had the opportunity in the past to seek out the smaller producers in the villages of Champagne, and now find myself drawn to learn more about these gems. Often when one buys grower champagne, you are getting wines from highly rated vineyards that are adjacent to their more well-marketed grand marques labels, but for a fraction of the price. Pierre Peters, located in the town of Mesnil-sur-Oger just outside the town of Epernay, is a specialist strictly in Blanc de Blancs bubblies. Originally a grower only, in 1919 Camille Peters in post-war France decided that he would take more charge of his destiny if he made his own wine.
In producing his Blanc de Blancs portfolio of Champagnes, Rodolphe creates cuvees from the villages of Avize, Cramant, Mesnil sur Oger and Cezane. He has 20 hectares in
those 4 regions and makes 15,000 cases for the worldwide market all of which are highly allocated. His cuvee de reserve, non-vintage is a blend of all of the villages where he has property, and it should be coming to the U.S. soon in 2013. His cuvee is 60% from the vintage of 2010 and the remaining 40% comes from his reserve wine which is a blend of wines from 1988 to 2009, lending deep layers and nuance to the wine as only time can provide. When I asked him about his philosophy in making a blend, he said, “Having a blend allows for several expressions of a given wine. The difference between a grower and a larger Champagne house is that we grow in a very finite, defined geography, in our case within 10-12 km from here. We are able to express a terrain given that we have few variables.” Unlike most of the larger houses who source grapes from all over the region, growers seek a consistent style and imprint that delivers that much more of a sense of place.
I plan on writing a more extensive blog on my visit to both Pierre Peters and Maison Fleury, Champagne’s first biodynamic winery located in southern part of the region, the Aube, a place not frequented by many but so worth the trip!
Happy Valentine’s Day all, share the love with a well chosen bottle of bubbly, and remember, you can have a mini celebration all week by opening a bottle of bubbly Monday, stopping it with a champagne stopper and enjoying a glass a night all week. At my home our tradition is to have a bottle of bubbly every Friday night to acknowledge the week’s triumphs and challenges…no cell phones allowed, just good conversation and a glass of bubbles.