There are around 15000 growers in Champagne (and 4650 are *RMs), many with sub-hectare holdings, it makes sense then to cooperatively share grape processing plant. Co-ops, of which there are about 140 of varying size, are important champagne producers. Many co-ops are federated into co-op conglomerations. A co-op’s role is to vinify members’ grapes, with the resulting wine optionally:
- Marketed under the co-op label, labelled CM (Co-operative Manipulant).
- Returned to members to market under their own label, labelled RC (Recoltant Co-operative).
- Sold to negociants as must, still wine, or finished wine, then labelled NM (Negociant Manipulant).
- Produced as Marques d’Acheteur, that is for supermarket or hotel own labels for example, according to a contract recipe, labelled MA.
* Recoltant Manipulant (RM) where the grower also produces and markets champagne.
Some of the main co-ops, Nicolas Feiullatte and Alliance being the biggest, with a little history attached, are:
- Nicolas Feuillatte – CV-CNF (Centre Vinicole – Chamapagne Nicolas Feuillatte; based in Chouilly on the Cote des Blancs. The co-op was created in 1970 with a few members, and has since grown to federate 84 smaller co-ops with more than 5000 growers (that’s 1/3 of the working appellation), making wine from 7% of the Champagne vineyard, or about 2250ha, annual production is about 9m bottles (2008), comprising Nicolas Feuillatte label (about 50%), growers’ own and Marque d’Acheteur labels. The philosophy of CV-CNF is based on solidarity, equality and innovation, providing member growers with direct access to consumers and an equal share of added value – truly a co-op.
- Jacquart – established in 1970s, as a separate brand and company under Alliance Champagne, now with a membership of 1700 growers on 2600ha across the appellation, in 130 villages, including 10 GCs and 22 PCs, representing 7% of the Champagne vineyard. To avoid the ‘co-op image’, growers are shareholders in the company, and so it’s wines are coded NM rather than CM or RC. As well as marketing under the Jacquart label, it is an own label supplier to the likes of Asda, Tesco and Sainsbury.
Mosaïque is its well-known brut, named for the patchwork geographical nature of the contributing villages. Unusually, its Brut Tradition gives Appellation Champagne Contrôlée on the label, rather than plain old Champagne as everyone else.
- Le Mesnil GC – established in 1937, this co-op is based in the grand cru village of St Mesnil sur Oger, on the Côte des Blancs, so in exclusively blanc de blancs chardonnay country. There are about 500 growers farming 300ha. Soils are belemnitic chalk, exposure is due East, with half the vineyards on the slope and half on the plain.
- Mailly GC – this grand cru village is on the North side of the Montagne de Reims, where there is a chalky sub-soil. The co-op was founded in 1929 to unify and protect the growers during the slump. There are 70ha with currently 80 growers farming within the village border, which is dominated by pinot noir, at 75%, with 25% chardonnay; annual production is about 0.5m bottles. Reserve wines are available from ten vintages, and the co-op has a reputation for its cuvées, which offer great value. Mailly makes Marques d’Acheteur wines, the Berry Brothers and Rudd United Kingdom Cuvée for example.
- Palmer & Co – a prestige GC and PC co-op founded after the 2nd World War by seven growers. Today there are about 200 growers on 370ha of GC and PC sites across 40 villages, most on the Montagne de Reims, where the chardonnay is apparently underrated, with some plots on the Cote des Blancs. … ‘high quality, seriously underrated, one of the best reputations’ … praise from Tom Stevenson in 2013.
- Regional Analysis 2010 – Champagne’s Great Success. [online]. Meninger’s WBI. Accessed 15/11/16.