Grower Champagne with make-your-own sushi dinner #Winophiles

“Woah!,” Pierre grabbed Cynthia’s leg with urgency. “Women growers in Champagne get higher prices than men!”

“Seriously? How?”

More captivated than usual by the Harvard Business Review, we dove into the story. It was March, Sunday night dinner, and the start of midterm and end-of-quarter craziness in our respective universities, but we weren’t going to let that stop us. So, we went reading, wine shopping, and splurged a little to join the Twitter fun convened by a wine writing group called the French Winophiles. The theme of this month’s Twitter chat: the women of Champagne.

Price negotiations: how Champagne’s women growers outsmart men

Big companies called “Houses” (think Veuve Cliquot, Moet & Chandon etc) make most of the wine in Champagne but they own little land. This means that while they have the capital to invest in equipment and marketing, they must buy grapes from the other side of the business, more than 15,000 independent growers who own most of the vineyard land. As you might expect, antagonism between growers and producers is a pretty big part of the 5 billion dollar a year industry.

So what does gender have to do with this? Women growers have to fight for respect and credibility in a male-dominated field. Two researchers decided to find out if these women also face “seller discrimination,” i.e. getting lower prices for their grapes as a result of their gender. Seller discrimination, the authors explain, is widespread, affecting minorities selling all kinds of things from baseball cards to iPods on eBay. You would expect the same results for grapes sold by women in Champagne. Of course, to measure this, you must control for other factors, notably grape quality, which the authors did.

But here’s the surprise: for a given level of grape quality, on average, women growers got paid more for their grapes than men! Why? The authors argue that as a minority group, women often support each other and socialize. They end up sharing all kinds of market relevant information with each other, which make them much better at negotiating prices. By contrast, they explain, men not only fail to socialize and share information, but in the rare instances that they do, they don’t usually trust what they hear from each other! You know, that other guy was probably just bragging, they think!

Our bottle of the night: “Particules Crayeuses” Brut Grand Cru, Blanc de Blanc, by Champagne Waris Larmandier

Our pick for dinner was a grower Champagne, i.e. one made by the grower themselves, with grapes from their land, rather than one of the big Houses. Champagne Waris-Larmandier was founded in 1989. Located in Avize, a village rated Grand Cru in the Côte des Blancs, the domaine is headed by Marie-Hélène Larmandier who continued the business after her husband Vincent Waris passed away. Her daughter and two sons work for the domaine too. The eldest son handles the family’s seven hectares of vineyards and the winemaking.

Ms. Larmandier went to art school so she paints beautiful designs that make the bottles a nice colorful touch on the dinner table.

We bought our bottle of “Particules Crayeuses” at Vif, our favorite Seattle natural wine shop, owned and run by awesome women who always make terrific recommendations. The Chardonnay grapes for this Blanc de Blanc came from Grand Cru vineyards over 40 years old that the family owns in several villages (not just Avize). Retail price was $70 plus tax. We were very pleased with its bright acidity, classic yeasty, toasty notes and a long, clean finish that made it work very well with our sushi dinner.

The Chardonnay grapes for this Blanc de Blanc came from Grand Cru vineyards over 40 years old that the family owns in several villages (not just Avize). Retail price was $70 plus tax. We were very pleased with its bright acidity, classic toasty notes and a long, clean finish that made it work very well with our sushi dinner.

Pairing: make your own sushi at the table

We invited our friends Anaid and Luis, who had done all the work for the #winepw Cab Franc dinner last week. They must have thought they would just be able to “mettre les pieds sous la table” (put the feet under the table), as we say in French. But nope, we put them to work.

We learned this way of eating sushi at home from a friend many years ago and never looked back: get a variety of fresh ingredients, set the table, and let guests have fun making their own sushi, as you would for a taco or burger night. While Cynthia loves to make rainbow rolls and other fun things, you can’t beat the simplicity of the DIY at the table method. And simple is what we need at this time of the year when we are buried in work.

For this, our go to source is H-Mart, the Asian American grocery chain. We stopped at the Federal Way location on the way back from Vif to Tacoma (our itinerary was highly calculated indeed).

Their brilliant sushi corner has everything we need, and the fish is prepped enough that the remaining cuts to get your sashimi ready don’t require too much skill (sharpen your knife though!). For the sushi rice, Cynthia, has tried many recipes over the years, but was particularly happy with this new one.

The Champagne pairing is one of our favorite things to do with sushi, though given the price of Champagne, we don’t do it often. The Particules Crayeuses by Waris Larmandier worked especially well.

Pierre quickly made a mess on his plate (it’s yummy anyway), a bit like those people in exercise videos who do everything with modified or poor form to make the rest of us feel better.

Meanwhile Anaid and Luis were killing it with colors and creativity:

OK, while it was a sushi night, we couldn’t help but have a cheese course before dessert.

Practice your French by watching this interview with Marie-Helene Larmandier and her son.

We’re joining the fun for the first time at the French Winophiles #winophiles Twitter chat, organized by experienced bloggers whose work we enjoy. We’re grateful to them for giving us the opportunity to play and learn. Like us, you should follow #winophiles on Twitter on Saturday, March 16, at 11 AM ET. We’ll update the links to all their posts below soon.

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8 thoughts on “Grower Champagne with make-your-own sushi dinner #Winophiles

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  1. Great read! Sushi is a great pairing to the Champagne Warid Lamindier. Natural and biodynamic Champagne without the additives reflects the terroir and is so good for the environment!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. So glad you joined us! What a tremendous piece! I will admit to a bit of envy “We bought our bottle of “Particules Crayeuses” at Vif, our favorite Seattle natural wine shop”…your “favorite”? You have more than one to choose from? ARG! I need more Seattle in my life! And then a “Sushi Corner”? How do I get one of those?!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. What a fascinating read. I love the collaborative spirit of the women growers you point to here. Do you have a link to HBR article you mention? Would love to read it. Love the Champagne Waris-Larmandier and sushi pairing — and what a fun spin to make it DIY!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. NIce read, and I love the sushi pairing.
    However, unfortunately your wine is not biodynamic. To be Biodynamic one must be organic… Both entail conversion and certification…
    Waris Larmandier only started their organic growing in 2016, and according to the certificate all vineyards are still under conversion at the moment. Furthermore, to be certified biodynamic, one has to certify everything, and imagining that they did and looking at the certificate, the first harvest to be certified would be 2020. This means the first possible biodynamic cuvee will not be out before 2022 at the earliest…

    However, even if there currently are only about 30 certified biodynamic producers in the whole Champagne Region, there are are few ladies: Francoise Bedel, Marie Courtin and Delphine Boulard are some examples.

    I do not like making comments like these, however, the Organic Champagne movement is (rightly) cracking down on people surfing the organic wave – even people in the process of organic certification. That is why it is super important that anyone communicating about organic and biodynamic champagne checks to see if growers and wines really are certified or nor. You can check organic certification on http://annuaire.agencebio.org and biodynamic certification on demeter.fr or biodyvin.fr.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for reading Caroline! We’re honored to have an authority like you stop by and comment. Since it really wasn’t an important part of the post, we have now removed any reference to biodynamic in the post. As an authority and published author on Champagne, you may also want to send a similar note to the US importer, De Maison Selections, whose website profile of the winery uses the biodynamic theme as a substantial part of the marketing. Websites that sell the wine do the same. They all shy away from the term “certified” but you raise an important point about this. Thanks again and we look forward to reading your book later this year when we have more time (we’re finishing our book!).

      Like

  5. What a fascinating study! Although, I’m not surprised to hear that women socialize more than men, I am surprised to hear about the better prices! Well done. Love the make you own sushi idea. We love sushi and sashimi with Champagne!

    Liked by 1 person

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