A blind tasting of Champagnes, held by industry magazine The Drinks Business last month, saw lesser-known labels from the region’s co-ops outdo famous rivals.
Among the seven Champagnes that gained a Gold medal or higher in the Brut Non-Vintage category were Champagnes Palmer and Pannier, two brands owned and run by co-ops. They were placed above celebrated – and more expensive – labels, such as Champagnes Pommery and Laurent-Perrier.
And co-op label Champagne Castelnau achieved a near-perfect score in the vintage Champagne category, for its release from the 2006 harvest.
The same category also had a strong showing from another co-op wine, with the 2008 vintage from Champagne Chassenay d’Arce – a growers’ co-operative based in the Aube – picking up a Gold.
Finally, one of the highest-scoring Champagnes of the day’s tasting – which saw almost 200 bottles sampled blind by experienced judges – was Egérie de Pannier 2006, the top cuvée from Pannier co-op.
Gaining 97 points out of a possible 100, it was praised for its wonderful combination of complementary flavours, from lemon and honey, to toast and grilled nuts, along with an uplifting, lasting and very fresh, dry finish.
It costs £75, but the Drinks Business says this is “amazing value relative to other special blends in this top-end Champagne category, from Dom Pérignon to Cristal, which can retail for almost double the price”.
Among other co-op Champagnes that performed well were labels from Nicolas Feuillatte, Montandon and Jacquart, each picking up Silver medals for a range of cuvées.
The Drinks Business added: “Although Champagnes sourced from growers’ co-operatives are often believed to be of lesser quality, the tasting in August proved that such producers can achieve outstanding results, and even make superior cuvées than the famous Grandes Marques, despite the lower prices generally charged for co-operative brands.
“For those who know the Champagne region well, however, such an outcome may not surprise, with co-operatives being major suppliers of grapes and wine to many well-known names in the region, who own few vineyards themselves.”
It said Palmer, Pannier and Castelnau “are definitely three names to seek out for those looking for an outstanding ratio of quality-to-price in Champagne, along with the larger cooperative brand of Nicolas Feuillatte, particularly for its vintage and blanc de blancs expressions”.
And it gave a mention to other co-ops not included in the tasting which produced quality Champagnes, Beaumont des Crayères and Mailly Grand Cru.