Champagne’s Very Special Club

Posted on Dec 28, 2017


Champagne

1996 La Grande Dame

In 1971, 12 growers in Champagne got together with an idea to make a special Champagne that would showcase their individual terroirs and their excellent wine making capabilities. For decades the Grande Marques (what the Champenois call the big, prestige producers) had been producing their tête cuvées which consumers knew were the best of their best. These would include Dom Perignon from Moët & Chandon, Comtes de Champagne from Tattinger, Cristal from Roederer, Cuvée Winston Churchill from Pol Roger and the like. These tête cuvées showed just how good Champagne could be when blended by the hands of a master. Blending grapes, sometimes from up to 60 different vineyards, showed the Grande Marque’s house style at its finest. As a response, these 12 growers decided to band together and create a special blend that showcased the very best of individual terroir from the Champagne de Vigneron (Champagne of Winegrower). These wines are called Special Club Champagnes.

French wine

Examples of Grower Champagnes

Initially the group called themselves the “Club de Viticulteurs de Champenois” and in 1988 changed their name to its current “Club Trésors de Champagne”. “Trésor” can be translated from the French as “treasure”. Today there are 29 members of the Club, each admitted to the Club by the other members based upon that grower’s established reputation for quality.  For perspective, there are over 19,000 growers in the Champagne region and about 5,000 of these growers produce Champagne for their own grapes. (For more on growers, see our article on Grower Champagne). Wines designated as Special Club must be made entirely at the growers own vineyards and cellars.

The Club’s emphasis on quality is strictly maintained. Special Club wines are only made in exceptional vintages. During the February following each harvest, each of the Club Trésors de Champagne’s members meet and present some of their vin clairs (the still wines that have not yet gone through the secondary fermentation that makes them sparkling wines) from the preceding vintage for a blind tasting. The objective is not to evaluate the individual grower’s wines, but to evaluate the vintage as a whole to determine if it meets the Club’s standard for an exceptional vintage. The 2003 vintage, one of the hottest on record, was excluded by the Club as they felt it was too big, too rich and out of balance. Regardless of how an individual grower may have performed, they were not allowed to bottle a Special Club in 2003. Conversely, member growers do not have to bottle a Special Club when the Club Trésors de Champagne do declare a vintage.

Once the vintage has been declared, each member of the group submits the vin claires they intend to use for their Special Club bottling to a panel of judges for a blind tasting. This jury is made up of rotating enologists and winemakers that are members of the Club who taste the wines blind. Those vin claires that pass this test are then permitted to go through the rest of the vinification process and bottle their wines in the specially shaped and embossed Special Club bottles. After three years in bottle the wines are re-submitted to the jury for further evaluation. If the wines do not pass this evaluation, they must be emptied from the Special Club bottle. The panel regularly rejects wines. Finished wines that have passed from previous vintages are tasted alongside the submissions and act as a control.

Champagne GlassIf ever you are wondering about what Champagne you should buy for a special occasion, you really cannot go wrong by choosing a Special Club. With a Special Club you are getting a top grower’s best effort that has been certified by a panel of enologists and winemakers to be up to the Club’s exacting standards. In order to meet those high standards, a strict selection in the vineyard must be employed. The result is that Special Club wines are rare and hard to find. Most producers might make around 2,000 bottles of Special Club in a vintage, or between 150 and 200 cases. So if you see one, grab it. We think you will be very glad you did!

Club Trésors de Champagne members are:

More information can be obtained on the Club Trésors de Champagne  at their website: http://www.clubtresorsdechampagne.com/en/home

 

Champagne Grower2004 Gaston Chiquet Special Club Tasting Note

Medium gold colour with lively mousse. The nose is a beautiful mix of bread dough, citrus and almond. On the palate we get lemon curd, pear, nougat, almonds and hints of caramel. The medium+ body gives a slightly creamy texture which is nicely balanced with the cut of the back-end acidity. At a perfect place right now but will last many years more. Only 29 growers are in the Special Club which have been making designated cuvees from individual vineyards since 1971. Special Club Champagnes are only produced in exceptional vintages.

Excellent+

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