Champagne carries almost mystical properties for a vast number of people. However, there are a bewildering number of Champagne houses, co-operatives and growers bottling wine under their own labels and a further huge own-label business with wines of immensely variable quality all being bottled under the auspices of just one appellation. The great Champagne houses virtually invented the concept of the brand in winemaking and in most cases they do a very acceptable job. Nonetheless, in the absence of a better classification system the area remains a minefield for consumers. At the last count, there were some 33,000 plus ha under vine with many of the 19,000 growers cultivating no more than a hectare or two. Both in the cellars of the region and in the vineyards there are inevitably substantial variations in quality. Things however are changing. Though accounting for only a very small percentage of exports, 30 or so top independent Champagne domaines are make a big impact visually out of all proportion to their size in the smart streets and restaurants of cities worldwide. Window shop down New York’s Fifth Avenue or London’s St James and you are as likely to see a bottle of Selosse or Jacquesson as a flagon of Krug or Cristal. The same holds true for Milan, Melbourne, Singapore and Tokyo. The boutique ethos has had as much qualitative effect on Champagne as in Haute Couture.