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How to choose a champagne? The basics

In our team, as experts in our region and our terroir, we have the information and the basics to choose and accompany a champagne. What about you?

If you admit that you are a little lost, don't panic. This is where we'll help you learn these basics!

Grand Cru, Vintage, Blanc de blancs ... Learn to read labels

When choosing your bottle, the information given by the label is very valuable, which is why it is important to be able to understand it, which is not always easy. Here is a small vocabulary point and very useful advice.

  • Grape variety

  • The style of wine or champagne is determined by the type of grapes used to produce it, which is called a grape variety. This will give its character, its specificities to champagne. 

    There are 3 main ones in Champagne, one with green-yellow skin and two with black skin: 

    However, the grape varieties are not always mentioned on the label because it is not mandatory in France. There is still a way to find your way around, thanks in particular to the words "Blanc de blancs"; " Blanc de Noirs ".

    When the label does not contain these names, which is the case in the vast majority of cases, it is a ’blendedchampagne, that is to say that several grape varieties are present and mixed to make the cuvée. This blend balances the flavors and aromas because each grape has very distinct gustatory and olfactory advantages that can go well together or counterbalance. Globally, we can say that Chardonnay brings elegance, Pinot noir brings power, and Pinot Meunier brings fruitiness!

    When you read " Blanc de Blancs ", Champagne is produced only from Chardonnay (the white-yellow cluster, hence the name).

    The mention " Blanc de Noirs "means the champagne is produced only from black grapes, therefore from Meunier and / or Pinot Noir. They can be blended or produced as a single varietal (100% Pinot noir or 100% Meunier).

  • Vintage & Ageing

  • In Champagne, the production of the famous sparkling wine is highly regulated and follows many rules established by the Comité Champagne (assembly which brings together growers and Champagne Houses).

    One of these rules sets the champagne ageing duration in cellars : it's the time the champagne, once bottled, must rest in cellars.

    This step is crucial because it allows the champagne to develop its aromas (see: link to an article on the process) and its small bubbles! This rest time is different if it is a vintagechampagne or not

    We explain :

    • A vintage is a champagne that is produced only with grapes harvested a specific year, which is why a year is mentioned on the label. A 2008 vintage, for example, is only produced with grapes harvested in 2008. It is the same principle for still wines.

    The minimum ageing time in cellars is 3 years, but prestige bottles can sometimes remain in cellars for 5,7, 10 years or more. This long rest will allow the champagne to become more complex because its aromas have time to intensify. The vintages will be interesting champagnes to pair with fish, seafood and white meats, for a king's meal! Our current favorite is Lancelot Royer Vintage

    • Champagne not vintage on the other hand, it can be a mixture of grapes from different years. Indeed, the winegrowers always keep reserve wines: they are grape juice obtained during the harvest of previous years. They can therefore add them to the juice of the year in order to give champagne character and balance, as well as flavor consistency from year to year.

    These champagnes will stay at least 15 months in cellars, which also allows them to develop their aromas, in a less pronounced way than the vintages and for good reason, the non-vintages are fresher champagnes, where the aromas of fruits, flowers are sought after, it is therefore not useful to age them too long at the risk of altering these flavors. Non-vintage will be perfect Champagnes for the aperitif, with good gougères with Comté, for example, yum! Our current favorite is the Guy Méa Brut nature, a delight!  

  • The Crus

  • In Champagne, each village authorized to produce champagne is called a cru. There is a classification that evaluates these vintages, depending mainly on the quality of the soils:
    - The plots with excellent soil are classified "Grand Cru": There are 17 of them throughout the Champagne appellation region. A Grand Cru champagne is only produced from grapes grown in a Grand Cru region, otherwise it cannot display this mention on the label.
    - Premier Cru: there are 44 Premier Cru Champagne villages.
    - All other cities do not have a classification: they represent 69% of the total area.

  • The dosage

  • Do you prefer dry or sweet wines? Whatever your tastes, you will find a champagne to meet your desires.

    To know the amount of sugar contained in a champagne, you have to look at the "dosage": it is the last touch made to the wine before the final corking of the bottle. It corresponds to the addition of a small amount of liquor.

    This is also called "expedition liqueur": it is a mixture of wine and sugar (grape, beet or cane sugar). Producers can thus choose the balance of flavors they wish to obtain:

    • Brut Nature or brut zero: 0 added sugar
    • Extra Brut: 0 - 6 g sugar / L 
    • Brut: between 0 - 12 g sugar / L 
    • Extra dry: 12 - 17 g sugar / L 
    • Dry: 17 - 32 g sugar / L
    • Demi Sec: 32 - 50 g sugar / L 
    • Sweet: +50 g sugar / L
    • Other mentions


    Reserve: another way to name a non-vintage

    Rosé: The skin of the black grapes has been used through maceration to give a nice pink color to Champagne, as well as aromas of red fruits. It can be really delicious, for example our favorite, Champagne Méa Rosa Delight 

    RM / NM: often on the back label, these two letters define the category of the producer, harvester, manipulator (I make champagne with my own vines) or merchant (I buy grapes to make champagne).

    And if you want to know even more, feel free to email or contact us on social media !!

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