A new Champagne comes to the West Coast: Champagne Palmer

Champagne Palmer is likely an unfamiliar Champagne name. It is actually a new brand to the United States. But it is not a new brand. The Champagne house was started in 1947. It came to the East Coast of the United States in January 2015 and now it is available on the West Coast as well.

In Champagne, the three main types of producers are négociant, grower and cooperative. Négociant Champagne, with names such as Möet and Veuve Clicquot, are the most familiar types of Champagne. These Champagne houses buy their grapes from all over the region and blend them together to produce a consistent style each year.

Grower Champagne is produced by the winemaker who typically owns small parcels of vineyards. The wines are made with estate fruit and will vary year to year. Co-operative Champagne houses are made up of a group of growers who supply their grapes to the co-op to be made into wine.

Champagne Palmer was founded as a co-operative. Instead of focusing on their specific terroirs, seven Grand Cru growers decided to blend them and created Champagne Palmer. Today there are 320 growers who are all shareholders, committed to a minimum of 10-year contracts and are committed to producing excellent quality grapes.

Champagne Palmer

The 415 hectares of vineyards in the co-op, of which 200 hectares are from Grand Cru and Premier Cru designated vineyards, are in the Montagne de Reims. The Montagne de Reims is one of three parts, along with the Vallée de la Marne and the Côte des Blancs, of the Champagne region.

The Montagne de Reims is known for some of the best vineyards, due to the slopes of the vineyards and the deep chalk beneath a thin layer of topsoil. Known as an area primarily for pinot noir, there are also 80 hectares planted to chardonnay in the premier cru areas of Viller-Marmery and Trepail.

There are currently four champagnes available in the United States:

— Palmer Brut Reserve [$52] 50-55 percent chardonnay, 35-40 percent pinot noir and 10-15 percent pinot meunier

When making non-vintage wine, older wines will be added to the current vintage to make a “house style.” Champagne Palmer uses a higher proportion (25 to 30 percent) of reserve wine than other houses. The wine then spends three or four years sur lie aging. The result is a Champagne with aromas of citrus, pear, apricot and hazelnut and is rich and deep, as well as fresh, on the palate.

— Palmer Rosé Reserve [$65] 40-45 percent chardonnay, 40-45 percent pinot noir, 10-15 percent pinot meunier

Like the brut reserve, this also has 25 to 30 percent of reserve wine blended in and the wine is aged sur lie for two to three years. To make it a rose, 10 percent of red wine is added. But what is unique is that the red wines are aged in a solera system, similar to how sherry is made, that was started 35 years ago. The resulting wine has aromas of wild strawberries and red and black currants. On the palate, it is luscious and round with a spicy and fruity finish.

— Palmer Blanc de Blancs [$79] 100 percent chardonnay

The chardonnay, which comes from the premier cru areas of Viller-Marmery and Trepail, is a more powerful style wine with great minerality. The wine is aged sur lie for three to four years. The resulting wine has more depth than the brut reserve, with notes of citrus, white flowers and almonds with that yeasty quality beloved in Champagne.

— Amazone de Palmer [$140] 50 percent chardonnay, 50 percent pinot noir

Made with 100 percent reserve wines, this wine is also aged sur lie for more than 10 years. It is a rare cuvee made from a selection of most outstanding wines and vintages of Champagne Palmer. The wine has aromas of exotic and dried fruits, toasted hazelnut and brioche.

Read the original story in the Napa Valley Register.