in on a Bottle
Every bottle of Champagne has, by law, a small serial number on it which can tell you key information as to how your bottle of bubbly goodness is made.
This is because the first two letters of this serial represent a categorised production method that each champagne brand conforms to.
For example, a Moet et Chandon will typically have a code that looks something like:
Where the NM represents a “Negociant Manipulant” production arrangement. This and other common production methods are shown below.
NM – Négociant Manipulant
1. Jean-Pierre has a fancy Maison (House) and his own vineyards where he grows grapes to make a champagne under his own brand.
2. His champagne is popular, so he makes a lot. He makes so much his own vineyards can’t keep up with demand.
3. In order to meet demand, Jean-Pierre makes deals with grape growers like Bernard to supply him grapes. Bernard provides grapes at a level of quality Jean-Pierre expects.
4. Jean-Pierre takes his haul of grapes from Bernard and others, and blends it with his own stock back at his cellars to make his champagne.
5. Jean-Pierre keeps his house name on his Champagne and all of its profits when it goes to sale!
Examples of NM houses: Moet, Veuve, Piper, Lanson…
RM – Récoltant Manipulant (aka; Grower Champagne)
1. Louis has a small Maison (House) and his own vineyards where he grows grapes to make a champagne under his own brand.
2. Louis carefully grows and maintains the vineyards he owns. He also harvests his own grapes when the time is right.
3. Louis almost exclusively uses own his stock to blend his champagnes. Laws allow him to use 5% of external grapes to help him blend (in this case, Louis uses only his own).
4. Louis finds a distributor for his champagnes to help him sell them when he is ready – or he can sell directly from his cellar door.
5. Louis’ Champagnes make it to market in far places via his distribution network. Grower champagne is quite a popular niche segment.
Examples of RM houses: Larmandier-Bernier, Pierre Gimmonet…
CM – Co-opérative Manipulant
1. Sebastian, Waldolf and Xavier all own beautiful vineyards, and all love growing grapes. But they are tired of getting raw deals from big buyers so they decide to combine resources and make their own joint-label champagnes.
2. After the harvest season, all 3 bring their stock to a shared cellar where they amass a significant volume of wines from their respective crops.
3. They blend their wines together tirelessly in many different combinations until they create one final product that they all are content with.
4. When the champagne is ready, they put it out to market under a specially devised brand name that they feel will help them find buyers – Waldolf insists that their champagne stands out in the crowd.
Examples of CM houses: Nicolas Feuillatte, DeVaux…
MA – Marque d’acheteur
1. Barry runs a big supermarket chain. Its sells pretty much everything. It prefers selling it’s own in-house labels because that fills Barry’s pockets with more money than selling someone else’s product.
2. Barry realises his supermarkets don’t sell its own champagne! There is a big hole on the shelves of his liquor department. This makes Barry sad.
3. Barry decides to go on a company funded trip to Champagne (Barry lives a tough life). After “investigating” the region for a few days, Barry strikes up a deal with Maison owner Alexandre to make a champagne exclusively for his Supermarket.
4. Alexandre goes about making a champagne for Barry. If Barry wants a value champagne, then Alexandre will do his best with what resources he has. In the end, Alexandre is able to make something palatable that he is proud of.
5. Barry gets his Champagne and puts it on his shelves. Because “Supermarket Champagne” sounds a bit boring, Barry pays a group of marketers to come up with a French sounding name (Like; Laurent-Roger or Veuve Moet) to apply as the registered trademark.
Examples of MA champagne: Veuve Monsigny (Aldi)
There are a few derivative methods from the main ones listed above that exist:
SR: Société de récoltants. An association of growers making a shared Champagne but who are not a co-operative.
RC: Récoltant coopérateur. A co-operative member selling Champagne produced by the co-operative under its own name and label
ND: Négociant distributeur. A wine merchant selling under his own name