The UK’s love affair with the wines of Champagne appears as strong as ever. Record sales throughout the pandemic has continued to follow the global trend with the CIVC reporting, earlier this year, record sales of 326 million bottles across the globe in 2022. Although, the famed names and brands of the previously titled ‘Grandes Marques’ still dominate wine shelves and restaurant lists, the trend of the so-called ‘Grower Champagnes’ remains equally strong. In 2020, a new specialist importer, Deux Six Wines, began to showcase its impressive portfolio to the UK’s Champagne buyers. Earlier this June, we sent The Buyer’s Mike Turner to the company’s first full portfolio tasting in London to find out more.
The ethos of Deux Six is that it supplies Champagnes that are terroir-driven by producers who are making ‘wine first, Champagne second.’
Who doesn’t love a glass of Champagne? Whether celebrating, commiserating, or just styling it out during the week, us Brits are drinking more Champagne than ever. We’ve been obsessed with these northern French sparkling wines ever since the Seigneur de Saint Evremond allegedly packed a few bottles in his bags as his exile from the court of Louis XIV brought him to our shores in the late 17th Century. Since then, the Champenois, and the large houses that dominate production, have built some of the most enviable brands in the world of wine.
For some sommeliers, restaurant managers and retail gurus, however, the drive to offer something different from the rest has seen increased attention on the seductive charms of the handful of Grower Champagnes now imported into the country since the turn of the century. As of 2020, we can add a new portfolio to that list, with the emergence of Manchester-based Deux Six Wines, and their stellar line-up of producers from across the premier and grand crus of this most famous of wine regions.
What do we mean by Grower Champagne?
As we know, the classic idea of a winemaker growing the grapes, turning them into wine, bottling them up and shipping them out is far from common in Champagne. The larger houses have been set up for many years to rely on a plethora of grape growers dotted around the regions. Growers can concentrate on doing what they do best, with the large Champagne Houses becoming experts at winemaking, blending their house styles, and marketing.
The issue being is that, to an extent at least, the idea of the terroir of the region was sometimes lost in brands and blending. Step forward the Grower Champagnes. Directly translated from the official French term Récoltant-Manipulant, these are a set of estates that produce their own wines from their own grapes and can highlight the uniqueness of the location and climates in which they’re made.
The production quantities are still relatively modest, with volumes in the low single figures as a percentage of Champagne output as a whole, but with around a quarter of growers in Champagne having taken the big step to produce their own, there is plenty out there for us all to explore.
Who is Deux Six?
An idea born in 2015, married couple Naomi and Cameron Foster took the plunge into the wine industry full time in May 2020, when the pandemic allowed the opportunity to follow their dream. The wines of Champagne hold a special place for the pair. Indeed, the company name comes from the date, 2nd of June, that they became engaged on a trip to Champagne. Over recent years their frequent visits to Champagne have increased not only their passion for the region, but also their awareness of the wide range of wines available from some of the smaller, specialised, family-run wineries they have encountered.
They now import and distribute the wines of six of their favourite producers, with an aim to give greater options to sommeliers and managers across the UK to build a more creative Champagne offering. All the wines are exclusive to the UK and are sourced directly from the families who make them. They also fit strict sustainability criteria as multi-generational operations keen to preserve the quality of their wines for those to come down the line.
Six wines to try from Deux Six
Each of the six producers chosen bring their own sense of terroir and expression when it comes to the wines of Champagne, and I’d fully recommend a tasting of their full ranges if you get the chance. But, in the meantime, I’ve picked out my favourites for you to mark your card for the next time you get a chance to try for yourselves…
Domaine Lagille, Au Fil du Temps 2015, DPD £48.00
Domaine Lagille was founded back in 1818, and current owners are brother and sister team Maud and Vincent who are determined, as they put it, to allow “the terroir to express itself.” Based over just 7.2 hectares of vines in organic conversion just to the east of Reims in the Vallée de l’Arde in Montagne de Reims, they produce around 40,000 bottles each year. Their wines all had a gorgeous citrus, sherbert note to the finish, with beautiful natural balance highlighted by the low dosage levels throughout. The Blanc de Blancs “Au Fil du Temps” had it all, with ripe green, stone and tropical fruits, cookie dough, the beginnings of aged savoury notes and a fat but refreshing mouthfeel full of depth and complexity. Would work as a luxury aperitif or complement a range of dishes.
Champagne Salmon, Meunier Rosé 2019, DPD £42.50
Based a little further down the Vallée de l’Arde comes Champagne Salmon. Established in 1958 by the grandfather of current owner Alexandre Salmon, this 10.5 hectare set-up specialises in Pinot Meunier, and it’s the 100% Pinot Meunier Rosé that really caught my attention in the line-up. The beautiful deep rose colour just looks so damned pretty in the glass, and then the pure red berry aromas take over. Aged for 18 months on lees, the mouthfeel also benefits from a 7g/l dosage to level out a perfectly balanced acidity.
Sadi Malot, Les Crêtes 2019, DPD £37.50
Established in 1929 in Villers-Marmery in the Montagne de Reims, today the production is overseen by 5thgeneration Cindy Malot and her partner Florian. All 11 hectares of vines are, as of this year, organically certified across a mix of premier and grand cru sites. I picked the Les Crêtes Blanc de Blancs from one of their premier cru plots. The nose builds beautifully in the glass, turning from fresh and bruised green fruits and citrus to smokey oxidised notes from the solera-aged reserve wines, and finishing with a lifting sage herbal note. Five years on the lees doesn’t overpower the purity of Chardonnay fruit across a long, lush finish. A real gastronomic Champagne.
Champagne Cossy, Sophistiquée 2013, DPD £49.50
Champagne Cossy established winemaking in 1950, having been multi-generational grape growers since 1764! Their 6.5 hectares of vines are based across six different villages in the Montagne de Reims and are now in the hands of Sophie Cossy who continues to trial new blends, dosages, and clones to perfect the wines she releases. Her Sophistiquée 2013 has a very apt name, with an exceptional building quality in the nose and mouth, from white flowers, green and stone fruits, honey, and long smoky yeast notes. Long, persistent finish and everything in perfect balance. A really joyous wine, let alone Champagne.
Champagne Philippe Glavier, Cramant Emotion 2014, DPD £75.00
Both descending from many generations of grape growers, owners Philippe and Véronique began making their own wines in 1995. Based in Cramant in the Côte de Blancs, they control 4.6 hectares of prime grand cru Chardonnay vineyards. The collection of luxury Blanc de Blancs produced climaxes in the Cramant Emotion, with only 1,000 bottles of this special cuvée released each year. Deux Six’s notes mark this wine as “full and greedy” and it doesn’t take long to know what they mean. On the nose and on the mouth there is amazing freshness and fruit purity for a 2014 that has seen 65 months on lees. A full and lingering mouthfeel is lifted by fabulous natural acidity you’d expect form grand cru vines. Definitely one for those who like to age their Champagne a bit longer, this one will last the distance.
Champagne Laculle Frères, Val Moignot, Cuvée Bertil Andersson, 2018, DPD £55.00
Based down in the exciting Côte des Bar in the southern boundaries of Champagne, Laculle Frères manages just 3.2 hectares across five villages, including plots of the lesser spotted Pinot Blanc. And it’s their 100% Pinot Blanc Val Moignot that really caught the eye, nose, and mouth at the tasting, with super fresh apples, pears, peaches, with a cheeky 2g/l dosage just to lighten up the sharpness. This is a perfect Champagne for the warm summer months, one that would be more than happy chilled down on the terrace and could still show off what it’s got to offer. Money from the sales of this Champagne also go to fund the training, education and work of young viticultural scientists, which sounds like a win-win to me.
For more information about Deux Six Wines, or to see their full portfolio, please contact Cameron Foster on firstname.lastname@example.org
Mike Turner is a freelance writer, presenter, and educator and regular contributor for The Buyer. He also runs a wine events business, Feel Good Grapes, that explores and discusses the idea of sustainability in the wine trade.