Americans can’t get enough bubbly: the U.S. is the number one market, in both volume and value, for Champagne exports, according to the Comité Champagne. And while Champagne has proven its year-round popularity with consumers, the holidays—and the abundance of celebratory events—remain a prime time to pop a bottle.
And grower Champagne—indicated on a label as récoltant-manipulant (RM), denoting a producer who vinifies and bottles their own grapes—continues to gain popularity stateside. Since 2018, the number of grower-producer labels coming into the U.S. has grown by 15 percent, per the Comité Champagne.
With a slew of lesser-known producers making their presence known, SevenFifty Daily asked nine buyers from across the country to spotlight the under-the-radar grower Champagnes they can’t wait to sell this holiday season. (All wines are listed with price per bottle at the noted establishment.)
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Pierre Paillard ‘Les Parcelles’ Bouzy Grand Cru NV; $75
Selected by Arielle DeSoucey, wine director, Tap & Bottle, Tucson, Arizona
Tap & Bottle started as a beer-focused shop and bar before expanding into wine and spirits. Arielle DeSoucey, the founder of Civil Wines, a wine education and events platform aimed at the English-speaking community, is now the wine director for Tap and Bottle and oversees wine programs for the company’s three locations, each of which has its own identity and personality.
“Sparkling wine is an important segment in the wine industry in Tucson, Arizona, given our dry, hot, desert climate,” says DeSoucey. “Consumers are excited to explore a smaller-production bottle hailing from a lesser-known grower-producer and are able to value that inherent difference.” For the holidays, she recommends Pierre Paillard’s ‘Les Parcelles’ Bouzy Grand Cru. “These are grower Champagnes that offer tremendous value for the price paid and demonstrate a spectacular consistency and quality level.”
Mathilde Savoye Blanc de Meunier Extra Brut NV; $250
Ron Acierto’s love for Oregon wine is apparent in his list of rare bottlings and back vintages at ōkta, but he points to Champagne as a personal favorite throughout his career; He owned a Champagne bar, Muselet, now closed, prior to his current role at the James Beard-nominated restaurant.
Acierto professes an affinity for single-varietal Champagnes, such as this 100 percent Pinot Meunier from Mathilde Savoye. Half of the fruit comes from 55-year-old vines in Cuchery, and the other half from 15-year-old vines in Baslieux-sous-Châtillon. “It has that elegance and silky sophistication that I’m always looking for in Champagne,” he says. “There’s expressive fruit, such as white stone fruit and white pear. It could be the beginning-of-the-evening drink or could even be that last one at the end.”
Champagne Caillez Lemaire ‘Reflets’ Extra Brut NV; $78
Selected by Melissa Zeman, owner, BottlesUp!, Chicago
“I wanted to open a wine shop that would bring people together via ‘retail-tainment,’” says Melissa Zeman, a former public relations professional. The pandemic, which hit shortly after the shop’s 2019 opening, nearly derailed her plans. But today BottlesUp! is a community hub, offering events and classes, and Zeman loves sharing new wines with the clientele.
“It’s always exciting when Champagne producers are first introduced to the Chicago market, and one this past year has been Champagne Caillez Lemaire, a family operation located in the Marne Valley,” says Zeman. This estate is led by Vincent and Virginie, and their daughter Pauline, the sixth generation. “I love having their Champagnes on the shelf for a number of reasons: [there’s a] female winemaker, which we love to feature, a focus on the Meunier variety, and extra brut offerings. Our customers tend to love bubbles that are a bit drier than brut. Caillez Lemaire is also certified biodynamic. Plus, they make 750s, magnums, and 375s—always fun to play around with different formats! [All these options are] great for parties, gifting, stockings … or just drinking to get through the crazy season.”
Savart & Dremont ‘Éphémère 017’ 2017; $200
Selected by Aubrey Bailey and Taylor Kindred, co-owners, Cadet, Napa, California
In the almost 10 years since it opened, Cadet has carved its own niche in downtown Napa. Along with California selections, the bar spotlights a global selection of wines. With a roster of visiting winemakers and a calendar packed with wine events, it’s a go-to for both locals and visitors. “Champagne has always been Cadet’s number-one seller and selections from Frédéric Savart have been a staple on our list since day one,” says co-owner Aubrey Bailey. This particular wine, a collaboration among the iconic producer and five of his longtime friends, is 100 percent Pinot Noir from Grand Cru vineyards in Bouzy and Ambonnay.
“What we love about this bottling is that each cuvée is numbered and the site and style will never be repeated,” says Kindred. “So the fact that this specific Champagne, the Éphémère 017, was produced only once and will never be repeated again, is pretty special to us. It’s crisp, slightly salty, and zippy. It’s a breath of fresh air in a glass; a fantastic bottle to open for any occasion or celebration that involves food, dancing, or simply great company gathered in conversation.”
Ruppert Leroy ‘Fosse Grely’ Brut Nature NV; $175
Selected by Maria Rust, owner, Somm Time Wine Bar, New York City
Somm Time in Manhattan’s Lower East Side neighborhood is known for owner Maria Rust’s ever-rotating, by-the-glass options and rare bottle finds. She’s no stranger to under-the-radar Champagnes; at one point the list featured a still Marc Hebrart. For the coming season, she’s excited to feature Ruppert Leroy’s non-vintage Fosse Grely Brut Nature. “They’re located in Essoyes, which is very close to the Côte d’Or,” says Rust. It’s an area referred to as “Burgundy with bubbles,” and a place to find the next generation of Champagne producers, according to Rust
Founded by Gerard Rupert and now under the leadership of his daughter, Bénédicte, the estate is certified both organic and biodynamic. “All of their wines are really precise and clean and show terroir beautifully,” says Rust. “The Fosse Grely is a blend of 50 percent Pinot Noir and 50 percent Chardonnay, done in a brut nature style. It’s very fresh and mineral-driven.”
Champagne Philippe Fontaine ‘Cuvée Des Lys’ Blanc de Blanc 2017; $80
Selected by Sarah Pierre, owner, 3 Parks Wine Shop, Atlanta, Georgia
Sarah Pierre spent most of her career working and managing restaurants in Atlanta and New York City, and says her passion for hospitality and her love of food and wine led her to open her own business. Her selections, along with the fun and welcoming atmosphere, have put 3 Parks on many “Best of” lists. Based on her success, a second location recently opened. “I could talk to our guests all day about Champagne,” says Pierre. “Lately, I’ve found myself recommending one grower Champagne over and over. It seems that I’m on a mission to get as much Philippe Fontaine in people’s hands as possible.”
The estate, now run by Philippe’s daughter, Solemé, and her husband, is located in Côte des Bar, and they farm their vineyards following sustainable and organic practices. “I am currently obsessed with their Blanc de Blanc Cuvée Des Lys,” says Pierre. “This rare bottling is 100 percent vintage Pinot Blanc and it is a must-have this holiday season. When you take that first sip, it’s impossible not to get excited about the flavors. It’s dry with notes of pear and peach, with hints of lemon zest, cinnamon, and white flower.”
Jeaunaux-Robin ‘Éclats de Meulière’ Extra Brut NV; $180
Selected by Jienna Basaldu, sommelier, Wrigley Mansion, Phoenix, Arizona
Originally from northern California, Jienna Basaldu was a sommelier at Michelin-starred Angler and at the 2020 James Beard Outstanding Wine Program nominee The Morris in San Francisco, before relocating to Arizona. Basaldu, who is studying to be a Master Sommelier, is now on the floor at Wrigley Mansion. The venue houses several concepts under its roof, as well as what Basaldu calls Arizona’s largest wine program, with over 2,100 selections.
For holiday meals, Basaldu recommends Jeaunaux-Robin. “They are a biodynamic producer, with a whopping 5.7 hectares (14 acres) of vineyards literally in their backyard,” she says. “Éclats de Meulière is a nod to the soils of the Petit Morin Valley, where the producer’s vineyards are located. With Meunier accounting for 60 percent of the blend and Pinot Noir the remaining 30 percent, this Champagne is giving all the red fruit flavors; think raspberry, cranberry, and crab apple skin. It’s beautifully oxidative and full-bodied, which makes it great for turkey on Thanksgiving and ham on Christmas.”
Mouzon-Leroux ‘L’Atavique Tradition’ NV; $68.99
Selected by Emma Sabia, owner, The Bottle Shop at Astor Square, Rhinebeck, New York
“We sell natural wines, but we aren’t exclusively a ‘natural’ wine shop,” says Emma Sabia of the store she co-owns with husband JP, which opened in November 2022 in New York’s Hudson Valley. “We believe in supporting grower-producers who farm responsibly, and that often lends itself to natural-leaning producers who use organic and biodynamic practices.”
Fitting into The Bottle Shop’s ethos is Mouzon-Leroux. “I love this wine for the taste, but there’s a lot to love about Mouzon-Leroux’s story,” says Sabia. “The domaine sits in the Grand Cru village of Verzy and dates to 1776. Sebastien Mouzon is a 9th-generation vigneron, and part of a next wave of grower-producers in the region pushing the boundaries. He transitioned the estate to organic farming in 2008 and uses biodynamic practices as a lens to understand Verzy and transmit a sense of the place in the bottle.” She calls the price extremely competitive, and with a classic Champagne flavor profile of fruit and yeasty, toasty notes, it’s a wine that can appeal to a broad audience.
Champagne Fleury Blanc de Noirs NV; $79.99
Selected by Betsy Ross, owner, Wine House on Main, Kennebunk, Maine
“Being a sommelier has blessed me with travels to wineries around the world, learning from some of the best sommeliers and chefs in the country,” says Betsy Ross, who moved home to Maine and opened her wine shop in December 2021. She brings her experiences to her local community, and the shop, which also houses a cozy wine bar, frequently hosts tasting events and classes. Her hometown roots make their way into her top Champagne pick for the holiday season.
“Émile Fleury was the first to plant grafted Pinot Noir in the Côte des Bar region in the early 20th century after the devastation of phylloxera,” says Ross. “His son, Jean-Pierre, who aspired to be an astronomer, took over the estate in 1962 after being inspired by the environmental science book Silent Spring by nature writer Rachel Carson, which promoted ecological awareness and the dangers of pesticides.” The book prompted an exploration into biodynamic practices, which Jean-Pierre started implementing in his vineyards as far back as 1989. “This Champagne, made from 100 percent Pinot Noir, is dry and elegant with delicate red cherry notes,” says Ross. “It’s perfect with our Maine lobsters or any seafood.”
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Shana Clarke is a wine, sake, and travel writer, and the author of 150 Vineyards You Need To Visit Before You Die. Her work has appeared in Saveur, Fortune, NPR, Wine Enthusiast, and Hemispheres. She was shortlisted for the Louis Roederer 2020 International Wine Writers’ Awards and ranked one of the “Top 20 U.S. Wine Writers That Wineries Can Work With” by Beverage Trade Network in 2021. She holds a Level 3 Advanced Certificate from Wine & Spirit Education Trust and is a Certified Sake Sommelier. She will always say yes to a glass of Champagne. Learn more at www.shanaspeakswine.com and follow her @shanaspeakswine.