Hey Hey dear readers,
Today we are going to review the vocabulary of champagne, by the way if you don’t know its history, you can consult my article dedicated to the history of champagne.
In this article, I’m going to give you the important words to know and I’m also going to teach you how to decipher the label of a bottle.
The words of champagne
For each word, I will give you a brief definition as well as the main points to remember.
What is a cuvée of Champagne ?
A cuvée is a wine produced over a year for a vineyard, from the grape harvest to the bottling. A cuvée is the result of choices (parcels and grape varieties, length of aging, in wooden barrels or not, …) and therefore each one has its own singularity. The whole of the vintages of a domain constitutes a range.
For each cuvée obtained, the winegrowers make the choice to use it to make a blended champagne wine or to vintage it but, for that, the year must be exceptional.
What is a grape variety?
The grape variety corresponds to the name given to the vine varieties: black grape variety for the vines of black grapes and white grape variety for the vines of white grapes.
The main grape varieties of champagne are: Pinot noir and Pinot meunier, from black grapes and Chardonnay, from white grapes.
Four other grape varieties are more secret and rare, they are used to make very rare vintages.
What is a vintage ?
The vintage champagne, contrary to the champagnes without year, is produced with the grapes of only one harvest, and it is the year of this harvest which will be the year of the vintage. From the pressing, through the vinification to the bottling also called the tirage, everything is done in the month following the harvest.
And if you don’t know how champagne wine is produced, I invite you to read my article on the secrets of making champagne wine according to the champagne method.
Why are vintage champagne wines rare and more expensive?
Every year after the harvest, the winemakers decide if their wines will be vintage. To make this decision, it is important that the year is good so that the champagne is exceptional and can improve with time.
In general, the Champagne houses only vintage their wines in great years, which makes vintage Champagne wines rare and expensive.
To know the list of excellent champagne, I invite you to discover the article what are the greatest champagne wines?
What is a blanc de blancs champagne?
Champagne Blanc de Blancs is made exclusively from white grapes with white juice of Chardonnay, generally from the Côte des Blancs area in the Marne.
Chardonnay brings delicate aromas of citrus and floral notes. After a few years of evolution, it develops notes of candied fruits, toasted bread and brioche.
What is a blanc de noirs champagne ?
Champagne blanc de noirs is a white wine from Champagne made exclusively from black grapes with white juice, mainly from pinot noir and pinot meunier.
The white appearance of this champagne wine is explained by the fact that the skin of the black grapes does not macerate with the juice.
The blanc de noirs champagne is powerful, vinous and is characterized by notes of red and black fruits.
What does allocation mean?
It is an exclusivity offered by a domain that allows access to one or more products of a house. If you are not an allocation holder, you will not be able to buy the products sold by the house in question.
- Bollinger sells its champagne PN VZ16 on allocation.
- The Grande Charte house markets its certified organic luxury champagne wines only by individual allocation.
Being an allocation holder therefore allows you to acquire exclusive and/or priority access to the champagnes of a house.
The mentions of champagne
What does “brut sans année” mean?
This mention means that the champagne is made from wines from different years. Generally, these champagnes are not of great quality and are less suitable for aging in the cellar.
What does “cuvée spéciale” mean?
Also called “cuvée de prestige“, this mention corresponds to a very special champagne obtained with the first juice drawn, called tête de cuvée.
The champagne with this mention, contrary to the brut champagne without year, is considered as a champagne of collection of a great quality.
Generally, the container is worked for the occasion: the champagne is put in bottle or flask then in box.
The special cuvées of the great champagne houses:
- The house of Louis Roederer has named its prestige cuvee “Cristal“.
- The house of Ruinart markets its special cuvee “Dom Ruinart“
- The house of Krug has named its exceptional cuvée “Clos du Mesnil“
- The house of Bollinger proposes its prestige cuvee under the name of “La Grande Année“
What does “cuvée parcellaire” mean?
It is a wine produced from a single parcel of vines, often optimally exposed or from a specific terroir.
Most of the time, it is a vintage champagne and mono-varietal.
Cuvées de champagne parcellaires are highly sought after because the quantity produced is limited and demand is high.
What does “vintage” mean?
Even if, as a general rule, bottles of champagne cannot show the mention vintage on the label because they are made of a blend of several wines from different years, vintage champagne can!
If a champagne has the mention vintage on its label, it means that it is a great champagne coming from an exceptional year. The harvesting of the grapes, the production and the bottling were done in the same year.
How to decipher the label of a bottle?
On each bottle of champagne is a label which has for vocation to bring information to the consumers, it is in a way the identity card of the bottle.
It is important to know that there are compulsory mentions and optional mentions that can be added to give more details.
First of all, I will list the compulsory mentions:
- The mention “champagne”.
- The brand or the house that bottled the wine
- The sugar content or the dosage that characterizes the type of wine (brut nature, brut, dry…) The volume of the bottle, in cl or ml
- The name of the winemaker
- The commune of elaboration
- The country of origin
- The professional registration number issued by the Champagne CIVC Committee and its status
From now on, you know the compulsory mentions that a label of a bottle of champagne wine must contain. I will now list the optional information:
- The alcoholic strength by volume (% vol.)
- The mention of allergens
- The year of production of a vintage
- The particularities of the vintages (rosé, blanc de blancs…)
- The mention “the consumption of alcoholic beverages during pregnancy, even in small quantities, can have serious consequences on the health of the child” or its logo.
- The “green point” for producers who have signed a contract for the recovery of packaging