practical guide

All About Champagne: The Secrets On The Label

J.M. Towers

In a succinct and straightforward way, we explain the meaning of the terminology printed on the label of a bottle of champagne.

Those who love champagne, indeed know the one to choose—and why. On the bottle’s label, there is valuable and necessary information that will help you select the perfect vintage for each occasion. We’ll clarify in a brief and simple manner the terminology found on the label of a bottle of champagne.

Champagne: Everything You Need to Know

Champagne is the French word that designates the sparkling drink made from French grape varieties such as chardonnay, pinot noir, and pinot meunier. The Champagne appellation of origin includes the regions of Montagne de Reims, Vallée de la Marne, Côte de Blancs, and L’Aube, and Côte des Bar.

When the label indicates Champenoise method, it refers to the process of fermentation—which in the case of champagne goes through two phases. The first occurs in French oak barrels; the wine base is subsequently extracted, a mixture of yeast and sugar is added and finally the product is bottled. In the second stage of fermentation, the yeast begins to dissolve the added sugar, creating alcohol and carbon dioxide. The bottle is tightly capped to prevent the escape of the resulting gas, which is partially dissolved and mixed with the wine, resulting in fine bubbles.

Champagne: Everything You Need to Know

Champagnes can be classified according to the grapes used in their elaboration. The Blanc de Blancs is produced only with white chardonnay grapes. The preparation of the Blanc de Noirs requires one or two of the authorized red grapes —pinot meunier and pinot noir—both red grapes with white pulp. The Rosé is obtained by mixing two types of champagne, red and white while the Prestige Cuvée is made with the mixture of different grapes with varying vintages, resulting in unique, high-quality champagnes. Millésimé is a term that just indicates a champagne produced with a single crop in a given year. Finally, there is the Vintage, a champagne produced with one single grape variety from an exceptionally good vintage, hence its high quality and excellent taste.

The label also contains other important facts such as the level of sugar added to the base wine before bottling, which will ultimately confer a greater or lesser sweetness to champagne. There are seven different types, and the sugar contents are measured per liter of Champagne: Brut Nature (less than 3 grams), Extra-Brut (less than 6 grams), Brut (less than 15 grams), Extra Sec (12 to 20 grams ), Sec (17 to 35 grams), Demi-Sec (33 to 50 grams) and finally Doux (more than 50 grams).

Furthermore, the bottles can also include acronyms such as RM (Récoltant manipulant) which indicate small producers that make their own brand; CM (Cooperative-manipulant) for cooperatives that produce several brands from the same bottling winery. NM (Négociant-manipulant) shows wineries licensed to buy grapes, which are almost always the big brands; MA (Brand d’Acheteur), is a brand specially made for a shop or supermarket; and the initials ND (Négociant Distributeur), which is a brand that does not produce champagne but only markets it.

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