10/04/2019

What does N-M, R-M, C-M, and M-A mean on a Champagne label?

Firstly, it is important to acknowledge that the smallest text found on a Champagne label is often the most important when understanding the Champagne or the producer itself. 

Usually the producer is the same as the brand, but Dom Perignon (made by Moët & Chandon) and a plethora of Champagnes such as Armand de Brignac (made by Cattier) or the rather unknown newcomer Guldkula, made for a Swedish finance banker, cares hardly about details.

However, marked on the bottom edge of the label are two important letters that give you very important clues about the Champagne. You will find two uppercase letters at the bottom edge of the label, followed by a few digits. These numbers are a registration number and unimportant for you, but the letters say a lot about the type of Champagne you have in front of you

It is within the négociant-manipulant category that the defined group of houses, widely regarded as Grandes Marques, can be found. Now we can explore these all-important letters: N-M, R-M, C-M, and M-A

N-M (Champagne House)

Stands for Négociant-Manipulant: a producer who generally buys their grapes. They do not grow themselves to produce the volumes they need, and sometimes even grape must or wine. This does not exclude those who own large properties (Louis Roederer, Taittinger, Mumm, Moët-Chandon etc.) also own their own vineyards as well. Or they have no land ownership at all. The big global and well-known Champagne brands are all NM, but there are many that are much smaller. At the latest review there were about 300 NM or champagne houses as they are called. 275 of NM represents only 7 percent of total production. 

R-M (Grower Champagne)

Stands for Récoltant Manipulant. This is a grower who produces and sells Champagne only from their own grapes grown from their own vineyards. They can buy 5% of the production if they want, to cover weak years. The concept of grower Champagne smells too much of the image of an idealized farmer, but in the best cases, the best growers actually make Champagnes that are as sophisticated and magnificent as any great NM. We call these producers domaine, property champagne or grower champagnes. The vast majority of grape growers in Champagne, 15,700 in total, do not make any wine, they sell their grapes. Also RM that does not make Champagne often sells some of their grapes to the big boys, the negociants. A total of 53 percent of the grapes are sold to NM. All RM has their own press, otherwise they would not be able to make their own wine. There are 2,015 RM, most of them largely unknown. Many of these growers have received cult status.

C-M (Cooperative)

Stands for Coopérative-Manipulant. The cooperatives are great & important in Champagne; growers are affiliated with the cooperative that buys the growers' grapes and they produce Champagne which it can sell as individual brands to, for example, supermarkets or as own brands. It can also make wines for some of its members – (see RC below.) There are more cooperatively affiliated vineyards in Champagne than any other French wine region, 140 at the latest count, but many of them belong to large associations. As a whole, the cooperatives account for about 8.5 percent of all Champagne in the market.

M-A (Custom Wine Product)

Stands for Marque d'acheteur. A private label or BOB (buyer’s own brand) Some companies, cooperatives in particular, specialize in these. The wine is made according to agreement with an agreed specification. The volumes for MA are quite large, a very important lump of Champagne's overall market.

Bjornstierne Antonson

ELICITE Champagne Expert

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