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How to Read a Champagne Label

Fri, Dec 02, 22

Sparkling wine may be called Champagne ONLY if it is from Champagne, France!

“Champagne” is required to appear on the label along with a number of other items including the Champagne House, alcohol content, and sweetness level. Here are the basics to know:

Is it dry or sweet?

When Champagne is produced, sugar is added to the bottle following fermentation (dosage). Each of these terms directly relates to the amount of sugar added to the wine in grams per liter (g/L). For reference, a liter of Coca-Cola contains about 100g/L of sugar.

  • Brut Nature – Bone dry: 0-2g/L
  • Extra Brut – Very dry: 0-6g/L
  • Brut – (most common) Dry: 0-12g/L
  • Extra Sec – A hint of sweetness: 12-15g/L
  • Sec – Medium sweet: 12-32g/L
  • Demi-Sec – Sweet: 32-50g/L
  • Doux– Lusciously sweet: +50g/L

What’s Cuvee and what is vintage Champagne?

  • Cuvee – While non-regulated, cuvee is a term that indicates the quality of the grape juice. Look for terms such as Grand Cuvee’, Prestige Cuvee’, or Special Cuvee’ for outstanding Champagne.
  • Vintage – Listed as the year in which all the grapes in the wine were harvested. Vintage Champagne also must be aged longer than Non-vintage (NV) Champagne.
  • NV – Champagne can often have difficult growing conditions, so non-vintage Champagne allows producers to use grapes from multiple calendar years to provide consistently outstanding wine.

What grapes grow in Champagne?

  • Seven grapes are allowed in Champagne, but it is typically a blend of 3 major grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. Different combinations produce a variety of styles & flavors! A few are:
    • Blanc de Noir – “White of black” made with Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, or both
      • Style: full-bodied and rich, adds flavors of strawberries and raspberries
    • Blanc de Blanc – “White of white”, 100% Chardonnay
      • Style: complex, toasty, biscuity flavors with more age potential
    • Rosé – Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier produce a pink wine through short maceration (i.e. grape skins staying in juice) or blending with Chardonnay.

The fine print at the base of the label identifies:

  • The alcohol level (typically 12%) and the size of the bottle (typically 750 ML)
  • Disgorgement date – may appear on the label, and indicates how long the wine has been in bottle
  • The professional registration code (a number) which verifies certification by the governing body, CIVC
  • The type of Champagne producer – the three most common are: NM: negociant, RM: grower, usually a family with small plots, and CM: co-op sharing resources

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