I may sound like a broken vinyl record but I need to reiterate that Champagne only comes from the Champagne region of France. So the term French Champagne is really rather redundant of sorts. Unfortunately, a lot of cheap sparkling wine sold in the United States is sold as American Champagne. There is no such thing as American Champagne. Lesson number one. A frightening statistic is that Over 45 percent of the sparkling wines sold in the United States are mislabeled "Champagne," according to the official Champagne Bureau (CIVC). Champagne comes in a number of different styles, some defined by sweetness or dosage levels, some defined by grape variety and some defined by quality. There are also different types of Champagne producers, and it can be useful to understand the differences between what is termed a 'Champagne House / Négociant', a 'Grower/Producer' and a Cooperative.
Who's Who: Choosing Between Different Types of ProducersThere are three main types of Champagne producers. These are:
- The Champagne House - A Champagne House is a Champagne producer who may or may not have its own vineyards, but also buys in a large proportion of its grapes from growers. Most of the well known brands fall into this category such as Moët et Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Pommery, Laurent Perrier, Perrier Jouët, Pol Roger, Bollinger, Charles Heidsieck, Gosset, Krug, Louis Roederer, Billecart Salmon, Taittinger, Mumm, Piper Heidsieck etc. Some of these do not own any vineyards and some such as Louis Roederer, own almost enough vineyards to be self-sufficient and consider themselves growers.
- The Grower - A Grower/Producer is typically a smaller, more artisanal entity that produces smaller volumes and all from its own vineyards (though legally they can buy in up to 5%). In the past most growers sold their grapes either to the bigger Champagne Houses or to the cooperatives. Today, more are independently making, branding and selling their own Champagnes. Many of these growers have quite a cult following in the United States, particularly among sommeliers. Some of the most well known growers on the US market include Pierre Peters, Egly Ouriet, Pierre Moncuit, Larmandier-Bernier, Vilmart et Cie and Gaston Chiquet.
- The Co-op - A co-operative is a Champagne producing entity owned by the members, and produce Champagne under its own brand name. The most important co-operative Champagne brands selling in the US are Nicholas Feuillate and Jacquart.