In the Mind of Terry Theise


As grower Champagnes appear with increasing frequency in the marketplace, we thought it was time to pop the hood (or cork) and take a closer look at them. The name “grower Champagne” is generally given to the sparkling wines of Champagne that are not produced by the larger houses, négoçiants or coopératives. The more complete definition, however, denotes those wines which are grown, vinted, and bottled by a small grower. These small growers, or récoltant-manipulants, are able to purchase only 5% of their own grapes for this purpose, so their production is a relative drop in the bucket of the total volume of Champagne that is produced. And yet, it is quite telling that they are gaining a increasing reputation for both their quality and their affordability.

Join us as we talk with Terry Theise, who has a number of these grower Champagnes in the portfolio of his Terry Theise Estate Selections. We’ll learn about the contribution of these small growers – what they bring to the Champagne region in general and how their product differs from the larger houses.

For more info about Terry Theise and Michael Skurnik Wines:

Sponsor – Gold Medal Wine Club:

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Show #224
(1:24:20min 60MB)

13 Responses to “In the Mind of Terry Theise”

  1. 1 George Dec 8th, 2008 at 2:35 pm

    It’s great that you were able to have Terry on – one of the most outstanding importers and singular personalities in the wine world today. His grower Champagnes are amazing wines; the best such line-up in the American market and well worth investigating if you haven’t already. His German and Austrian portfolios are peerless, as well.

    Google “Terry Theise catalog” and download his catalogs – wine geeks will be captivated!

    Great job, guys.

  2. 2 Phil M'Glassup Dec 9th, 2008 at 2:00 am

    Wow, great interview with a brilliant, articulate, passonate and waggish guest!
    Tho I enjoyed his boldness, I must say, his accusations about Big Champagne’s variation by market without were to say the least, inflammatory, as they were presented without any proof.
    I wonder if there has been any pushback from the big guys about this. That said, I hope to try some of his grower champagnes soon (hard to come by; they’re often sold out even here in nyc).

  3. 3 GrapeRadio Bunch Dec 9th, 2008 at 4:36 am

    Phil, Terry was giving his opinion, not a scientific fact. If one wishes to be a cynic, they could say he has a bias because he has a financial interest in promoting grower champagne. Americans love the David Vs Goliath story. It is also important to remember that some of the “big guys” have their own vineyards.

    I love champagne. I have more than a few bottles of from the Grandes Marques. I will keep buying them because I think they are terrific. I have experienced bottle variation with Champagne (and wine from other areas). No so much where I would consider it systemic.

    I am rather new to grower Champagne, but I am very impressed with my initial experiences.

    To me Terry is a fascinating man. His absolute unwavering dedication is astounding. I am impressed beyond words. He is a poet not only in his prose, but in the way he approaches his exploration of wine.


  4. 4 George Dec 9th, 2008 at 8:20 pm


    I think you should have no trouble finding many of Terry’s Champagnes in NYC – for one (two), Astor Wines & Spirits and Chambers Street Wines both seem to have excellent selections.

  5. 5 Amir Kenneth Eid Jan 14th, 2009 at 1:13 pm

    I’ve downloaded (and listened to) most of yout shows, and just want to thank you for all your hard work. “In the Mind of Terry Theise” is one of my favorites (so far) along with the Krug piece. Terry Theise was as pleasure to listen to; down-to-earth, with some clear opinions and a mindset, that (us) people in the business can only try to live up to. And your questíon really made for an interesting and educational piece.

    Thanks guys,

    Amir Kenneth Eid
    Copenhagen, Denmark

  6. 6 GrapeRadio Bunch Jan 14th, 2009 at 1:35 pm

    Thanks for the glowing praise. Hard to do a bad show when you have a guestlike Terry. He makes our job so much easier.

  7. 7 Julia Feb 10th, 2009 at 7:15 am

    To everyone at Grape Radio. Thank you so much for the wonderful podcasts. I just discovered your site and I’m going through and listening to the all the podcasts. I’ve learned so much and I’m definitely interested in finding more small growers to drink and enjoy. Please keep up the great work. Thank you so much.

  8. 8 GrapeRadio Bunch Feb 11th, 2009 at 10:35 am

    Julia, you are very kind. Nice to hear that you discovered us. We will do our best to make sure we do no lose you as a fan.


  9. 9 Patrick Feb 15th, 2009 at 5:48 pm

    Incredible interview. I am here listening because I just spent a full day trying to absorb every word of Theise’s portfolio notes — the passion behind the product is just immense, and I guess I just can’t get enough because here I am still absorbing. I just wanted to point out one thing for clarification that I don’t think was corrected during the interview. When asking what “grower” Champagnes were, one of the interviewers said he thought he knew what “Grand Cru” Champagnes were, but he wasn’t sure what “grower Champagnes” were. I think what he meant was that he understood what “Grand Marquise” Champagnes were (i.e. Champagnes with familiar names from major labels who source their grapes from growers in all sub regions of the AOC) “Grower” Champagnes (and especially those in Thiese’s portfolio) are just as much Grand Cru as any major label out on the market. Don’t want to sound over the top geeky, but I think it’s an important note when talking about quality, over market share and corporate manipualtion.

    Thank you very much for a great program.


  10. 10 George Mar 14th, 2009 at 10:36 pm


    Again, not to sound “over-the-top geeky,” as you put it, but it might be helpful for people to be aware that “Grand Cru” has a very specific technical definition in Champagne. Irrespective of whether a bottle of Champagne comes from a small, large, negociant, recolant, or “Grande Marque” producer, this designation refers only to the grapes themselves that are used in making the wine, not to individual estates, bottlers, co-ops, etc. It does not refer to individual estates, as it does in Bordeaux – it’s more like how they classify things in Burgundy, though notably different in practice.

    You see, in Champagne, they have something called the ‘echelle des crus’ that rates each village on a 100-point scale. Every village that has a score between 90 and 99 (and these scores have been revised over the years) is designated “premier cru,” while only 100-point villages are “grand cru.” Thus, all the fruit grown in Cramant, Ambonnay, or any of the other 15 (I think) Grand Cru villages is therefore “Grand Cru,” just as fruit from, say, Cumieres, Mareuil-sur-Ay, or any other Premier Cru village is always “Premier Cru.”

    For a bottle of Champagne to be labelled “Grand Cru,” all of the fruit (I’m pretty sure it must be 100%…) must be from one or many these Grand Cru villages. “Premier Cru” indicates that it is all from villages of at least Premier Cru status.

    You may not see much fruit, if any, from these 90+ point (echelle des cru rated) villages in your average run-of-the-mill NV cuvee, but it is ubiquitous in prestige cuvees from small and large producers alike – at least for the most part, especially with the ones that are imported.

    One of the things that’s remarkable about the ‘grower’ Champagnes is that they are – at least most of the imported ones, anyway – explicitly from these highly-rated villages. If a grower is in Le Mesnil sur Oger, and all of his vines are in Le Mesnil, then every drop of every wine will be “Grand Cru.” This cannot be said about the entire line-up of wines from most Grande Marque producers, notable exceptions notwithstanding.

  11. 11 Patrick Mar 18th, 2009 at 9:29 pm


    Thanks for the response. I realize that this is an old feed, but I just recently started vistiing, amd listening to, your always informative site. I think I may have been trying to say the same thing that you said yourself — maybe my shot at it was a little less clear. Although I do understand the basics of the echelle des cru system, I think my point may have strayed a little from my intent. One of the hosts of the interview seemed to be implying (and I’m sure it may just be me reading too much into it) that “grand Cru” was a designation that grower champagnes are not known for. I think we all realize that this is, as you just stated, exactly not the case. But unfortunately in the wine world marketing perception rules the roost. I just thought a clearer distinction between “grand cru” and Grand Marquise designations could have been made for those who have heard less about the small, familly owned and bottled champagnes. But being that I am still so new to your format and your target audience, maybe I’m making mountains out of molehills.

    Ultimately though, this interview was fantastic and I really appreciate the fact that you have put it out there. Even ten years after the whole “grower” craze hit our shores, there is still so much to gather from an interview such as this one.

    Thank you for the time you have taken to respond …

  1. 1 The V Word | Wine Country BC pingback on Oct 29th, 2013 at 9:47 pm
  2. 2 The Grand Crus of BC | Wine Country BC pingback on Dec 8th, 2014 at 9:32 am

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