Out of the 19,000 growers in the Champagne region, only about 5,000 of them produce Champagne from their own vines. We call these folks grower producers. For decades, the larger Champagne houses got all the recognition. They highlighted their tête de cuvées, featuring blends carefully created from grapes sourced from up to 60 different vineyards. Before 1970, these were arguably the best bubbles these large houses produced.
Until the last ten to fifteen years, the small independent families of grower producers flew under the radar. What if these small families could do something just as grand as the larger houses, but better?
These growers were already applying the same dedication to making each one of their cuvées special; true representations of the soils and climate of the subregions where they come from. It would take forming a group of like-minded producers committed to excellence in all aspects of production. And that is just what happened.
In 1971, a group of the twelve oldest family-run, small Champagne houses banded together to do something about it. This group of twelve created the Club Trésors de Champagne, french for “Treasure Club.” Since its creation, this club has expanded to include 29 grower Champagne families.
What’s the club all about?
In essence, the mission of this group is to showcase the very best vintages of grapes that are most expressive of the unique terroir, and to create awareness of the regions’ originality and incredible abilities to produce some of the best Champagne in the world.
In order to be classified as a Special Club Champagne, the cuvée must be produced with grapes from outstanding vintages harvested from the member’s own vineyards. The cuvée must also be bottled and aged at the member’s estate. The Special Club Champagnes represent the tête de cuvée (the most premier bottle of a grower’s estate) selection for each member.
Above: Champagne Hervieux-Dumez
How does a grower become part of the club?
In order for a grower to be accepted to the Special Club, they must be a winemaker who grows and tends to their own grapes, on their own land and have total control over farming and winemaking practices.
Their Champagnes must go through a rigorous process of tastings by a panel of experts; tasting for balance, quality, and most importantly expressive terroir.
Here’s how it works:
Every year in February the process begins when members of the Special Club get together to taste the top Champagnes. First, this panel tastes the still wines (vin clairs) from the previous harvest. This group of still wines are tasted for quality, not so much individually but as a whole to determine if the vintage itself is even worthy of being deemed a Special Club Champagne. The decision must be unanimous!
If the consensus is that the vintage is stellar, then each producer must submit their wine to two blind tasting panels of the club’s esteemed oenologists and wine professionals.
- First the still wine is tasted. If the still wine passes the first round, it will be tasted again for approval after it undergoes secondary fermentation for a minimum of three years.
Above: Champagne Hervieux-Dumez
Once the cuvée receives final approval, it can then be bottled in the uniquely-shaped bottles. These bubbles are the crème de la crème and true pillars of excellence. Special club Champagnes wear an embossed badge of honor on the collar of the bottle, signifying astute attention to detail and hardwork of the winemaker.
All Special Club cuvées are bottled in this distinctive and uniform fat-bottomed, green glass bottle with the same exact label—appearing that they are all part of one collective group. The only noticeable difference on each of them is the respective grower’s names.
Every bottle is assured to be excellent, but they will vary in flavor as a result of the specific place and time the Champagne was produced. C’est magnifique!
Be sure to grab one if you see one of these beautiful Special Club cuvées on a menu or at your local wine shop. We at fatcork are honored to represent one of these 29 special club producers. Try a bottle (or two) yourself and get familiar with the taste of excellence.