Life’s just too short to skip out on Champagne.
Is it just us, or must you be crazy to not know that Champagne, is also the true birthplace of Champagne?
In asking several people this question, we were surprised to hear that most of the world think that the word associates to anything ‘with fizz’. Many students too typically have to make this distinction when learning about Champagne.
Champagne is a sparkling wine that can only come from Champagne in France. Otherwise the wine should be termed a ‘sparkling wine’. or just ‘bubbles’ is fine too. It is a special wine that is unquestionably the drink of choice for a number of memorable life events and should be enjoyed with our loved ones. For that reason, it should be selected based on occasion – as well as personal preference and taste.
To be a real-deal French Champagne, one can only be made using:
- Pinot Noir, and
- Pinot Meunier.
Champagne often relies on a blend of all three varieties, though it can be made from just one or two.
While many people casually use the term Champagne as a generic word for sparkling wine, in Europe and around the world. It is actually illegal in France to call any wine label Champagne, without the correct designation. Champagnes’ in France must abide to the rules of appellation as well.
This rule with Champagne and the fuss with its birth certificate, is not unique to some of our other favourite drinks. Tequila is required by law to be made in Tequila, Mexico. Otherwise it’s called a Mescal. Additionally, if you happen to see DOCG label on a bottle of Italian plonk, it is in fact a stamp of designation, pertaining to the highest quality area of Northern Italy, in which is was made.
A typical Sparkling on the other hand, is made from a blend of same three grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. It can be made anywhere and tastes a lot like real bubbly. If you see a Champagne or Sparkling Wine called “Blanc de Blancs,” it’s made exclusively from Chardonnay.
With an incredible range of Champagne options and price tags to choose from, picking the right gold standard sparkler can often be overwhelming. While every Champagne is a sparkling wine, not every sparkling wine is Champagne (more on this in a moment).
The question is then, how do you know which champagne to buy on what occasion?
Now this of course depends largely on preference. We can’t go past a Piper-Heidsieck NV Cuvee on a Saturday night, or turn down trying a new growers champagne any day of the week. BUT Your selection should take into consideration personal taste and most importantly the occasion!
What are the Best-Selling Champagne Brands in the World?
- Moët & Chandon – Moet is a party animal. Trivia to many as the best champagne brand in the world, the LVMH brand is also the best-selling champagne brand. Moet is often spotted on the dance floor. Dom Perignon is made out of premier and grand cru and much less is produced. (More expensive grapes + labor-intensive winemaking = higher base price.)
- Veuve Clicquot – Perfect for romantic moments. The first word is pronounced ‘verve’ (rhymes with ‘nerve’) with only a slight pronunciation of the ‘r’. The wine is loved for its rich and toasty flavors. Dominated by Pinot Noir and famous for structure and finesse.
- Nicolas Feuillatte – Perhaps the oldest union of producers of champagne. It comprises 82 winemaking cooperatives representing more than 5000 vineyards.
- G.H. or ‘Mumm’ – is a high quality, good value Champagne suited well for five-star dining. Known for its core of ripe red fruit and brioche, and a finish of crisp citrus and chalk.
- Laurent-Perrier. Great for fabulous aperitifs and celebrations. Its non-vintage Champagne is a great example of why it is so popular. Made from Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes, this is deliciously fresh and elegant, with a great balance of fruity flavors and creamy texture.
- Taittinger. This Champagne house that has undergone an impressive if gradual resurgence since the producer was taken back under full family control in 2006. its Champagnes are already excellent and compete well at the top of the line. Pronounced “teh-ta-zhay”.
- Krug – The connoisseurs wine for kings. The pleasure in Krug Grande Cuvee exemplifies the generosity, depth and fullness of its creation: a Champagne of unfailing quality every year, which soars over and above the notion of a single vintage year.
- Piper-Heidsiec – Purchased by a French Entrepreneur in 2011 with numerous luxury brands in his portfolio, this red-carpet Champagne prompts class. Champagne Master’s noted Brut Non-Vintage appear more linear, dry and chalky than in other competitions.
- Ruinart – The world oldest champagne house, now owned by big wig LVMH. Ruinart is often called the “chardonnay house” for its reliance on Champagne’s white variety. Former cellar master Jean-François Barot decided to focus on the grape when he redefined the Ruinart style in the early 1990s. Chardonnay-dominant Champagne tends to be fine and linear.Al so great for more refined aperitifs.
- Bilecart-Salmon – Champagne for chefs and gastronomy.If Clyde were seafood , Bonnie is Billecart. The combination of freshness, finesse and elegance makes our wines very compatible with food. Champagnes are balanced with low sugar, offering fruit and freshness, not oxidation.
- Bollinger – Is often said to be the gentleman’s Champagne: elegant, reserved, perfectly harmonious, with a great backbone. Reserved for black-tie events.
- Pommery. The Vego’s choice, as the cork closed wine is made with added sulfites. A blended wine in the best sense of the term, it combines the three Champagne vines, with Pinot Noir being the dominant grape, affording roundness and fullness in the mouth.
Hopefully this helps if you’re new to Champagne, and especially when purchasing Champagne when celebrating someone else. Although we won’t blame you if you opt for a Bollinger of your birthday.
Types of Champagne producers
Something handy to know is that there are primarily three types different types of Champagne producers.
3 Types of Producers in Champagne
There are three general classifications of Champagne producers imported into the USA: Maisons, Cooperatives and Vignerons.
- Maisons = Large Champagne Houses
Maisons (aka ‘Houses’) make up 87% of the Champagnes imported into the USA. Champagne houses buy their grapes from lots of grape growers from all over the region. The Maisons focus on blending grapes from different regions and vintages to produce a consistent taste every year.
How to recognize: Maisons are the large Champagne brands or ‘negociants’ that have familiar names such as listed above. Maison Champagnes are widely available and are famous for making appearances at fancy events. Chances are, if you’re at an Oscars after party, you’re probably sipping a Maisons de Champagne!
2. Cooperatives = Co-op Champagne Facilities
Co-ops are typically wines from a specific village in Champagne and from grapes grown around that village. Growers who don’t have all the sparkling wine making equipment can opt into a village co-op. There are many different ways in which co-ops function, but usually, the growers supply their grapes to the co-op and the chief winemaker makes the final cuvées. The Champagnes can be labeled individually for the growers and they can be labeled as the co-op brand.
How to recognize: Cooperative Champagnes are typically labeled with the letters ‘CM’ for ‘Coopérative Manipulant’ in small print on the bottom of the front label. However, there are a few other types of producer who use co-ops (see below).
3. Vignerons – Grower Champagne
These are the grower-producers. The word ‘vigneron’ roughly translates to winegrower or more specifically, someone who cultivates a vineyard for winemaking. Growers typically own small parcels of vineyards in very specific places within the Champagne region. They tend to their vines all year and harvest their grapes on their own. Because their sparkling wines are crafted with grapes from specific parcels of land and blended in small lots, they tend to taste very distinct and different every year.
What is growers Champagne?
Do you like the unique character of farm fresh eggs or single origin coffee and chocolate? Well, Grower Champagne is similar in that it rarely tastes the same every year and each producer is different.
Grower Champagne is our favourite because it embodies those families who grow grapes in their own vineyards and produce unique Champagnes and Cuvees (aka sparkling wine blends) that reflect their distinct vineyards and style. Only 5% of the Champagne imported into the USA is grower Champagne.
How to recognize: A good tip is to look for hyphenated names. Growers often label their sparkling wines using their last name, along with a hyphenated maiden name (or two) that typically comes from the grower’s mother or spouse. This is done to honor the heritage of the land. Also, see the official producer types below for more tips.
What does Grower Champagne taste like?
Grower Champagnes come in a very wide range of styles. What’s been noted about these bubbly wines is that the individual work of the growers really comes through in the finished cuvee. See below for details of several common styles of Champagne.
Vintage vs non-vintage (NV)
What is the difference between Vintage and non-vintage Champagne?
The main difference between vintage and non-vintage Champagne, is not that the vintage is old but that it is made from the grapes of only one year’s harvest. Non-vintage Champagne is a blend of different years’ harvest. The trick to remember is that vintage is singular and implies one year (one vintage) only.
What do wine vintages mean?
Vintages are generally produced three or four times a decade.
May include any of the three grapes — Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, or Pinot Meunier (or other heritage grapes)— but must be aged for a minimum of three in the bottle. There is no denying aging is the luxury factor in vintage Champagne and what transforms your Mercedes Benz into a Ferrari with years on the label.
Non Vintage Champagnes
On the other hand are only required to be aged for a minimum of 18 months. “Aging is the luxury factor,” says Chang. “There’s a lot of painstaking work and labor and real estate required to bring those gorgeous bottles of Champagne to us. Not only are they sourcing grapes from their best vintage, but the grapes are coming from highly venerated vineyards.”
Non-vintage Champagne, including Taittinger Brut La Francaise, is produced with grapes from multiple harvests, Victoria James, beverage director at Gracious Hospitality Management and author of “Drink Pink: A Celebration of Rosé,” explains. “In some cases, this can be a span of up to 20 years. More often, it is an assembly of three to five vintages.”
What’s better… Vintage or Non-vintage Champagne?
While vintage Champagnes are celebrated for their uniqueness, non-vintages are valued for familiarity, often highlighting a label’s flagship tastes and aromas.
Each Champagne maker has a house style,” Chang says. “Some houses are Pinot Noir-focused and are richer and bolder. Others, such as Taittinger, specialize in Chardonnay grapes, which make the Champagne more elegant and brighter and a little nervier. If you like a house’s style, you’ll like them across the spectrum — from non-vintage all the way through to vintage.
What is Brut Champagne? Brut is a term applied to the driest Champagne and sparkling wines. Brut wines are drier which means they contain less residual sugar than those labeled “extra dry.” Extra Brut denotes a wine that’s extremely dry, sometimes totally dry.
Blanc de Blanc
What is Blanc de Blanc? A French term that means “white from whites”, and is used to designate Champagnes made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes or in rare occasions from Pinot blanc (such as La Bolorée from Cedric Bouchard). Blanc de Blancs is white Champagne made exclusively from white grapes, and usually Chardonnay. Those made only from one or more red wine grapes – usually Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier – are called Blanc de Noirs.
What is Prosecco? Prosecco is a sparkling wine made primarily in Veneto, Italy close to Treviso which is about 15 miles (24 km) North of Venice. Prosecco is made with primarily Prosecco (aka “Glera”) grapes. Produced using an affordable method called the “Tank Method.
What is the different between Prosecco and Champagne? While they’re both sparkling white wines, Champagne is produced from chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes grown in the Champagne region of northeast France, while Prosecco hails from the Veneto region of Italy and is made mainly from glera grapes.
Do Sparkling wines get you drunker?
Ever hear someone explain their drunken giggles last night as saying ,the Champagne went straight to my head? While Champagnes and Sparkling wines most commonly have an alcohol content around 12%, similar to white wine. Take care if you are planning to toast the New Year with champagne – The bubbles in this most celebratory of tipples really do get you drunk more quickly.
How to store Champagne at home?
Champagne storage: Saving Champagne for a special occasion? Keep the bottles horizontally to keep the corks moist—dry corks lead to shrinkage and other bad things. Store in a cool (55 degrees is ideal, and cooler is fine), dark (wine and champagnes are subject to “light poisoning”), humid place.
Note: You should not be storing Champagne at home for more than 10 years. It’s very delicate and needs to be drunk.
How to serve Champagne?
Champagne is a beautiful thing and every bottle should be appreciated.
The Champagne ‘POP’ sound when opening, means youre doing it all wrong. Despite the fun, you’re jeopardizing it’s quality right away as you can damage the Champagne. When opening a bottle of Champagne, hold the cork firmly, and turn the bottom of the bottle gently until you feel the air bubbles trying to pop out of the bottle.
You want to press the cork off and hear the air release out quietly.
Pour your champagne out slowly. To prevent bubbles quickly rising to the top and spilling on the table; try and pour the wine toward the corner of the glass. There should be less bubbles rising in the glass – and you can usually get more in it.
Serving tip: Sparkling wines should be served chilled at around 40° F.
It will last about as long as white wine with a good drinking window of 2-3 days. You can store in the fridge for up to 5 days, although don’t expect the same fizz.