Cat Silirie Curates: A Duet of Grower Champagnes AKA Farmer Fizz!

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"Cat Silirie Curates" is back with an exciting installment of this very special series: "A Duet of Grower Champagnes" - These captivating sparklers will help you to celebrate the New Year in grand style!

There is an emerging trend among Champagne lovers; in search of authentic, terroir-driven bubbles, they have gone off the beaten path in favor of small properties who, unlike the big guys, grow all of their own grapes and craft all of their wines on-site. Their artisanally-made wines have been dubbed "Grower Champagnes" or "Small Grower Champagnes" and in recent years have been given the affectionate nickname "Farmer Fizz". Their official designation is "récoltant-manipulant" and is identified on the bottles by "RM" in tiny letters on the labels.

The qualitative difference between conventional Champagne and farmer fizz is crucial for those seeking the ultimate in Champagne flavor and distinctive character. "A small grower Champagne is not necessarily intrinsically superior or inferior to one made by a négociant, but today, the best ones are increasingly diverging in character from traditional Champagnes, offering a distinctly different type of experience," says Champagne aficionado Peter Liem.* We couldn't agree more, and Cat, our resident farmer fizz enthusiast, has selected two grower Champagnes that are exquisite representations of the genre. 

Jean Vesselle Rosé Brut Champagne, "Oeil de Perdrix" Grand Cru Bouzy Champagne, France NV
The Vesselle family has been making Champagne for over 300 years. Today Delphine Vesselle and her husband David continue the tradition, making grower Champagne in the village of Bouzy, famous for the quality of its pinot noir. The estate comprises 11 hectares and is planted to 90% pinot noir and 10% chardonnay, with a total production of under 7,000 cases. Perhaps their most unusual wine is the Oeil de Perdrix, or Eye of the Partridge, their revival of a defunct style: a copper-hued pinot noir Champagne.

The orange-pink color of this "Oeil de Perdrix" aka “Eye of the Partridge” was historically the hue of almost all the Champagne made in the Grand Cru village of Bouzy in the nineteenth century. The wine’s singular hue is like the color of a partridge’s eye, also described as silvery pink. 100% pinot noir grapes are macerated briefly to extract color, then pressed. The wine is described by the Vesselle family as having notes of roses, lavender, delicate strawberry, and pomegranate. On the palate it is bright and full-bodied, with a wonderful creamy mousse, all the white being elegant and well-integrated with a long, flavorful finish. The wine press loves the "Oeil de Perdrix":

95 points, Wine & Spirits Magazine:
"In modern Champagne, any color that might bleed from the skins into the juice is usually filtered out, so the wine is clear. In this traditional style, known "Oeil de Perdrix" or “eye of the partridge” color for its pale pink with copper hues, Delphine Vesselle allows the ripe pinot noir grapes from her vineyards in Bouzy to bleed color from their skins and doesn’t filter it out, hoping to preserve what she describes as the soul of pinot noir. Everyone on our panel was struck by this wine’s beauty, as its delicate touch seemed to connect with every scent and taste receptor at once. Auction-consultant Craig Ganzer commented on that complexity: “I just kept taking notes,” he said. The pink color and the range of green herbs in the scent seem to resonate through the wine, taking its radish-like tension and formal structure in an understated direction. Disgorged 1/19." (12/2019)

93 points, Vinous:
"The NV Brut Oeil de Perdrix is floral, resonant, and has so much to offer. The interplay of aromatic top notes and Bouzy richness makes for a compelling, open-knit Champagne that is an absolute joy to taste. This is such a gorgeous and totally distinctive Champagne." (12/2019)

90 points, Robert Parker's Wine Advocate:
"The latest rendition of Vesselle's NV Brut Oeil de Perdrix is excellent, displaying a beautiful hue that lives up to its name and equally appealing aromas of minty red apples, mandarin, and dried white flowers. On the palate, the wine is medium-to-full-bodied, with a youthfully frothy mousse, ripe acids, and an enveloping but racy profile, concluding with a saline finish." (4/2019)

R. Dumont & Fils Champagne "Solera Reserve Brut" Champagne, France NV
The Champagne house of the Dumont family is situated in Champignol-lez-Mondeville, a village in the southern Champagne region of the Aube, some 90 miles southeast of Reims and Epernay. The Dumonts have owned vineyards in this area for over two hundred years and today Bernard Dumont, along with his cousin and his nephew, work together to produce Champagne exclusively from their own 22 hectares. The soils are a geological extension of those in Chablis, namely Kimmeridgian chalky clay. The vineyard is planted with 90% pinot noir and 10% chardonnay.

Dumont is one of the very few Champagne producers who craft a Champagne using the solera method. Bernard Dumont has dedicated one stainless steel tank to the project which was first filled in 1991. He works exclusively with chardonnay for this cuvée and has been adding to the tank every year, making it at present a blend of approximately 30 vintages. This solera system produced its first release in 2010. The dosage is 6 grams, so it is very dry. Production is about 400 cases annually (which is super-small!)

The NV R. Dumont Blanc de Blancs "Solera Reserve Brut" Champagne has aromas of poached pear, fresh-baked bread, and a delicate toasted nut flavor. It is fleshy and broad on the palate, offering poached pear and toasted nut flavors as well as a touch of caramel. It is an exotic, complex, and intriguing Brut Champagne with strong finishing power!

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