Champagne Styles and Vintages
Genuine champagne is only produced in the Champagne region in France. Many other sparkling wines are produced both in France and other wine producing countries using similar methods, but it is the unique combination of soil, climate and geology (the”terroir”) of the Champagne region and the specific winemaking techniques of Champagne’s many houses that defines champagne.
- Non-vintage (NV) champagne is made from a blend of years and the winemaker aims to make each bottle taste the same, year in year out, in keeping with the style of the house and label. The philosophy is about quality, consistency, smoothness and pleasing people so that people come to love that wine and buy it year round.
- Vintage champagne is made with the grapes from only one year and only in years that yield the best grapes, so vintage champagne differs from year to year and sometimes may not be made at all. Most of the best known houses or labels produce vintages about 6-7 years out of 10. The French term for vintage champagne is “millésimé”.
- Rosé champagne is a pink-hued wine made either by adding red wine or by letting the grape skins have longer than usual contact with the juice (the saignée method). It varies in colour and taste between different houses and is not necessarily sweet.
- Blanc de Blancs is made from 100% Chardonnay (white) grapes.
- Blanc de Noirs is made with only black grapes, either Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier or a blend of the two.
- Prestige Cuvées are special edition champagnes of a very high quality, due to their production process or the quality of grapes. These are more expensive, premium wines and demonstrate the signature style of their houses.
It isn’t true that champagne is always a sweet wine. The amount of sugar added at the end of the production process of champagne adds both sweetness and alcohol. There are six recognised degrees of sweetness:
- Extra Brut – no added sugar, bone dry
- Brut – very dry to dry
- Extra Dry – dry to medium dry
- Sec – slightly sweet
- Demi-Sec – medium sweet to sweet
- Doux – very sweet, a dessert style champagne