I recently ran a small survey on my Facebook page and on LinkedIn asking people what the phrase Les Champagnes de Vignerons meant to them.
There seems to be a vague general agreement that it means champagne from a small producer, but in fact it doesn’t mean Récoltant Manipulant or ‘Grower Champagne’ as many people thought., although it doesn’t exclude that either.
No one seems to know precisely what it means and that’s a problem because the expression is being used by Le Syndicat Général de Vignerons as the headline phrase to promote the less well-known champagnes and to persuade people to try them.
So I thought it was time to give everyone the real story.
The reason I wanted to do the survey was that I work exclusively with small and medium sized champagne producers who want to improve their business. I know that many of them make wonderful champagnes which, in my opinion, are equally as good as most of the better-known brands and which, for me at least, are far more interesting by virtue of their variety and individuality.
However I also know that they struggle to sell their champagne at anything approaching the price of the big brands and I wanted to understand why this should be.
Was the slogan Les Champagnes de Vignerons helping or hindering and what exactly were the images and associations that the slogan evoked for champagne drinkers?
Well it was surprising and the most obvious thing was that people don’t share the same perception.
Made with Herzblut
Some people thought Les Champagne des Vignerons were made by small cooperatives; some people said they were’ independent’ producers. A few people used the word ‘authentic’ and some said ‘high quality’
Martin in Germany used some more emotional adjectives and said it meant champagne made with love and with Herzblut which I guess you could translate by saying that the maker had ‘put his all’ into making the champagne.
All this is true, but is still pretty vague and that’s not surprising for the very simple reason that there is no definition of a Champagne de Vigneron. Here’s why
The concept is supposed to convey the idea that the champagne is made by the person who owns the vineyards – grower champagne if you like, but that’s not a hard and fast rule.
Any champagne maker can be a Champagne de Vigneron and display the sign. The main criterion is that the producer has to be a member of the Syndicat Général, but the members of the Syndicat can be RM, cooperatives or even NM.
There are no criteria about quality, size of production or anything else for that matter. It appears you just have to persuade the Syndicat that the champagne is made in smallish quantities, and that the maker was directly and to a significant degree, involved in making the champagne.
If the rules about being in this 'club' are so broad no one should be surprised that there is no clear agreement amongst champagne drinkers about what Les Champagne de Vignerons means.
It’s all much too vague to my mind and I think a good deal more thought needs to go into the whole concept.
What about the price?
Many people said that they associated Les Champagne de Vignerons with good value for money. This is true from the consumers’ point of view, but not necessarily from the producer’s point of view. They would love to sell their product at the same prices as the big brands.
I wonder why it is that in many other industries, descriptions such as hand-made, limited quantity, artisan and so on, are usually and automatically associated with higher prices, yet when it comes to Champagne, consumers and people in the wine trade often expect these amazing artisan champagnes to be cheaper than the big brands.
When one finds these superb champagnes on sale at discounted prices, is that a service to the consumer or a disservice to the producer?
Would you be prepared to pay a bit extra for a Champagne des Vignerons, or do you always expect them to be cheaper than well-known brands?
Cheap prices for top quality artisan champagnes are all the more illogical when you realise that the big brands have significant economies of scale so it’s those champagnes that should be cheaper than the smaller brands, not the other way around, but that’s the power of marketing I suppose and we humans are all too easily influenced by it.
To be honest I’m probably just as susceptible to marketing as anyone else. It’s just that I like to think that I have more discernment, won’t be taken in by the marketing and will make my own choices about which champagnes to drink.
Maybe I just delude myself, but I still prefer the small champagne brands whether they’re called Champagnes de Vignerons, ‘grower champagnes’ or just simply ‘amazing’.
If you’d like to make any comments, please feel free, either on
or on LinkedIn if you’re a member
I’d love to read your opinion
Bubbly Best Wishes