Now that we are in the holiday season, and wine drinkers thoughts wander through a lovely fog of bubbles (read: Champagne), we should really think about the true future of great champagne, the small producers themselves. These producers are often called "Grower-Producers" (Recoltant-Manipulant in french), who grow their own grapes, make their own wine, blend the wines into the various cuvées (french for blend, nothing more) and then make the champagne and offer it to the market. Since their grapes come from their own vineyards, their champagnes have real character and reflect what the french call terroir.
This is just the opposite of the large champagne houses, often noted as the "Grande Marques", who buy grapes on contract from all over the champagne region (often confused with "Grand Cru" champagnes) and whose champagnes are more "generic" in style.
For starters, I will feature a small producer in the southern Aube part of the Champagne region from Gyé-sur-Seine (Gyé on the Seine; that's right, the same river that flows through the center of Paris), Thierry Fluteau, a third generation champagne producer who excels in producing a number of cuvées using the Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes, and whose American wife, Jennifer, writes a lovely blog (http://champagnefluteau.over-blog.com/) that will really give you a window into the life of a small champagne producer.