When we talk about Big Brand vs Artisan Champagne what we are technically describing is NM (Négociant-Manipulant) vs RM (Récoltant Manipulant). Essentially, the big Maisons who buy in their grapes to make Champagne in volume vs those producers who tend the soil, grow the grapes and bottle their own produce on a small scale.
Whether you’re a connoisseur or simply a casual imbiber, you’ll almost certainly have enjoyed a glass or two of the big name Champagne brands at some point and, chances are, you’ll have come across one or two that you really enjoyed. So, if you fancy trying something new in a similar style, then look no further, as resident expert, Peter Crawford, provides a bit of background on a clutch of the Grand Marques and offers an alternative artisan option (or two) that we’re sure will win you over.
Big Brand – Moët
When it comes to the world of Champagne Moët still sits front and centre. One of the reasons it has been so successful is its level of consistency for generations. Reductive, light and fruity, to many it remains the icon of Champagne.
Artisan – Goutorbe Bouillot 80/13 or Jean Velut Lumiere et Craie
Both of the above work with perpetual reserves. Simply speaking, this means they retain a small portion of wine from past vintages which they can introduce to create consistency for non-vintage blends. The result is complex, reductive wines that link fresh fruit with aromatics and zest bringing joy to every glass.
Big Brand – Lanson
Lanson is one of the famed Grande Maisons that block a process called malolactic fermentation. Without getting overly technical, this is a process used by most producers to convert malic acid to lactic acid, resulting in a softer, creamier wine. By blocking this process, Lanson Champagnes possess a crisper, tighter style but still with plenty of fruit.
Artisan – Demière
The same technique has been embraced by this small producer based in the village of Fleury la Riviere, allowing their cuvées to show a wonderful freshness alongside some crisp fruit. The Es’Sens is a fantastic example in non vintage form and the Egreg’Or a stupendously good vintage 2010.
Big Brand – Krug
Krug remain one of the most complex, engaging and singular Champagnes out there. Their wines are rich and engaging with a fabulous tropical, saline nuttiness. Few producers also continue to oak age their wines like Krug which adds another level of complexity and length.
Artisan – Caillez Lemaire
Based in Damery, Caillez Lemaire Jadis 2009 is one of the knock out wines using oak vinification. Rich, complex with a beautiful sweet aromatic edge, there is an explosion of tropical fruits on the palate and then a wonderful salinity.
Artisan option 2 – Georges Remy Blanc de Noirs 2015
An equally engaging and rich wine from Bouzy. Intense, perfumed and balanced with a fabulously integrated toastiness. One of our stand out wines for 2020.
Big Brand – Bollinger
It might be famed as James Bond’s go to Champagne, but it’s much more besides! Rich, Pinot Noir focused, mildly oxidative and lengthy, the wines are oak vinified and their non vintage undergoes a rare process of transversage, where the bottle is disgorged and the wine is moved to a tank for dosage before being re-bottled. They are always a wonderful experience!
Artisan – Maurice Vesselle Hauts Chemins 2008
A single vineyard wine, pure Pinot Noir with complex notes of cherry, stewed redcurrants and textured salinity on the finish.
Artisan option 2 – Adrien Renoir Les Epinettes 2016
Another rich and explosive wine. This time more apple and blackcurrant but again with a vinous and rich salinity on the finish.
Big Brand – Dom Perignon
A name that is synonymous with prestige – this was the first ever status wine. Coming into existence in the 1930s, it has been a consistent and brilliant example of wine making ever since. Reductive, smokey with a perfect blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
A stupendously balanced and reductive blend of Pinot and Chardonnay. Rich and brimming with notes of orange peel and a wonderful energy and tension.
Artisan option 2 – Legras & Haas Exigence No.9
Another amazing blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It is poised brilliantly on the palate bringing a superbly layered experience with zest and energy.
Big Brand – Roederer Cristal
In the last 25 years Roederer has solidified its place as one of the true great wine producers in the region. Creating beautifully balanced, textured and moreish wines, they have taken their production to another level by engaging with biodynamic practices, resulting in a complete uplift in the management and execution in both the vineyard and winery.
Artisan - Laurent Bénard
At Sip Champagnes we are proud to work with a number of organic and biodynamic winemakers but none more so than Laurent Bénard. Their Vibratis 2013 is a wonderfully sensual experience. A blend of Pinot Noir/Chardonnay and Meunier, it keeps a strict palate but remains saline and engaging.
Artisan option 2 – Vincent Charlot
For a slightly more fruity affair, Vincent Charlot, a biodynamic producer from Mardeuil, creates a faultless L’Or des Basses Ronces. Made from a tiny plot in the village it shows incredible levels of finesse and elegance but with lovely citrus notes and an amazing brooding power beneath it.
Big Brand – Pol Roger
Another name with a long history in Great Britain. Pol Roger is always a fantastic blend with a bit more weight towards Pinot Noir, creating a rich, round style with a touch of zest and creaminess on the finish.
Artisan – Trousset Guillemart Blanc de Noirs
A similarly poised round style with a lovely crisp freshness. Generous, juicy and complex.
Artisan option 2 – Remi Leroy Blanc de Noirs 2014
Another unbelievably brilliant Pinot focused wine. Multidimensional, layered and persistent, it ticks all the boxes and is utterly delicious!