Champagne - A Brief Guide & Useful Terms and Words
Champagne is the most prestigious sparkling wine in the world made only from grapes grown on the chalky soils in Champagne, the most northerly of France's wine regions. We understand that some Champagne terminology can be confusing and have compiled a brief guide with a list of terms to easily guide you through your Champagne experience! For any other questions, feel free to contact us on firstname.lastname@example.org or 0800 849 7849
Champagne House or Grower Champagne?
We have had some breath-taking and magical Champagne on both sides, as well as disappointments. Very mall producers don't get as much spotlight as the large Champagne houses and sometimes it might just be a question of availability. Some Champagne from the smaller growers is not available for export at all and, therefore, we don't get the chance to try some absolute gems. We select only the most passionate of winemakers as the production of good Champagne demands the highest levels of attention and expertise. We are proud to be able to share these outstanding wines with you on our website.
Uses grapes sourced from many different vineyards. Most champagne is made and sold by Champagne houses. Not named after vineyards, they are known by commercial names. By far the most powerful of these is Moët & Chandon, which accounts for almost 25% of all export sales. Moët & Chandon is owned by the giant L.V.M.H. (Louis Vuitton Moët Hennessy) which also owns Pommery and Veuve Clicquot. Combined, these four houses represent almost 50% of the export market.
Grower Champagne producers are those who make their own wines with grapes from their own vineyards. Champagne made from grapes grown on the same estate and vineyards, owned by that estate. Growers are not only growers but are also winemakers. They are fiercely proud of their vineyard and they want to show the specificity of their vineyard in their Champagnes. Two words that are important to consider are Vineyard and Terroir. The true art of these Champagne makers is their ability to use different grape varieties and wines from different years to produce their very own blends such as ‘Cuvees Speciales’ or ‘Cuvees Prestiges’. There are more than 15,000 growers in the %Champagne region.
A vineyard is a plantation of grape-bearing vines, grown mainly for winemaking, but also raisins, table grapes and non-alcoholic grape juice.
The terroir (soil where the grapes are grown) is everything to a grower and great Champagne is made from vineyards that have the best soil due to exposure and aspect to the sun, the topography and even bacteria and microbes in a specific site. Terroir is the dominant influence in the wine that is produced.
La Champagne Viticole - the Champagne industry’s bible!
This features a rundown of the latest news from Champagne in addition to union and trade coverage
Non Vintage (NV)
A blend of grapes from several vintages
when grapes made from the harvest of a single year are used to make Champagne it is called “Vintage.”A blend made exclusively from grapes grown and picked in one year. The year appears on the label of the bottle of Vintage Champagnes.
Recent Good Vintages 2008, 2006, 2002, 2000, 1999, 1998, 1997, 1996, 1995, 1993, 1992, 1991, 1990 A group of growers that blend the product of their collective vineyards to sell under one or more brands.
Top vintage champagne of a champagne house
Blanc de Blancs
Made from Chardonnay grapes only
Blanc de Noirs
Made exclusively from black grapes
Made by blending red and white wine before the second fermentation or macerating coloured grape skins
A wine and sugar mixture added after dégorgement to sparkling wine to determine how dry or sweet it is. Demi-Sec (or Riche)
Sweeter than Brut – indicates sugar content
Dry – indicates sugar content
A sweet style of champagne.
The driest style of sparkling wine containing little, if any, sugar. If no sugar at all has been added, it may be labelled Brut Nature.
Despite the name, a sparkling wine labelled extra dry is actually slightly sweeter than a wine labelled brut.
Although in French it means “dry,” a sparkling wine labelled sec is semisweet, and usually enjoyed with dessert.
The process of creating alcohol and carbon dioxide when sugar reacts with yeast.
Yeast cells left over from fermentation.
Liqueur de Tirage
A yeast and sugar mixture added to still wine to begin a second fermentation.
Strict guidelines as to how wine is made
The process of turning and tilting bottles of sparkling wine in order to move sediment into the neck of the bottle so that it can be removed.
The removal of sediment from a bottle of sparkling wine after the second fermentation.
This process creates bubbles in sparkling wine by trapping carbon dioxide in a closed container. In the case of Champagne, the second fermentation takes place inside the bottle.
White – gives finesse to the champagne
Pinot Noir Grapes
Black- gives backbone to the champagne
Pinot Meunier Grapes
Black – gives fruitiness to the champagne
Grand Cru & Premier Cru
A village – 300 in Champagne. Of the more than 300 wine-producing villages in Champagne, 17 are categorised as “grand cru” (“great/best growth”). Champagne quality with a rating. Grand Cru gets 100% and 44 are listed under the marginally-less-extraordinary “premier cru” (“first growth”) label. The remaining territories, though they may yield exceptional grapes, have no cru status at all.
The traditional method of making champagne is where a second fermentation occurs in the bottle. This term can only be used when making Champagne in the Champagne region of France. When this method is used outside of the Champagne region it is called Méthod Traditionelle.
NM : Négociant manipulant. A person or legal entity that buys grapes or wine to make Champagne on their own premises and market it under their own label. All of the big Champagne Houses belong in this category.
RM : Récoltant manipulant. A grower who makes and sells Champagne under their own label, from grapes exclusively sourced from their own vineyards and processed on their own premises.
RC : Récoltant-coopérateur. A cooperative-grower who markets co-operative produced Champagne under their own label.
CM : Coopérative de manipulation. A wine co-operative that markets Champagne made from the grapes of members.
SR : Société de Récoltants. A family firm of growers that makes and markets Champagne under its own label, using grapes sourced from family vineyards.
These initials form part of Champagne labelling requirements and must be used on every bottle of Champagne.
The Champagne & Gift Company
Sending Gifts Around The World
Sourcing from top producers we pride ourselves on the quality, taste and smoothness of our Champagne.
Our prestige award-winning Grand Reserve Champagne is shipped directly from France and we supply this to customers under their own brands.
We also supply Champagnes from many of the major Champagne Houses and each gift is beautifully presented and comes with its own gift message card.
Read more about our Champagnes
The Champagne and Gift Company
Leading supplier of personalised Champagne and Branded Champagne gifts