The term Champagne refers only to the divine sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France. Champagne's unique terroir produces wines that cannot be replicated anywhere else in the world. Even sparkling wines that come from other areas of France are given different names based on where they are from (i.e. Cremant d'Alsace). While Champagne is a sparkling wine, not all sparkling wines are Champagne and most countries around the world have their own interpretation. These include Prosecco from Italy, Cava from Spain and Sekt from Germany to name a few.
Champagnes are differentiated by many factors. Here are some terms to look for when selecting your bottle(s):
Blanc de Blancs: This Champagne is made from 100% Chardonnay grapes. These wines are creamy and elegant with a lighter body than Champagne made using red grape varieties.
Blanc de Noirs: This Champagne is made exclusively from red grapes. These wines are clear in color and are richer in body with flavors of cherry and red fruits.
Rosé: As the name implies, this Champagne has a lovely pink color, usually as a result of blending in some red wine to create the beautiful color. These wines generally have tart, berry-like flavors.
Non-vintage vs. Vintage: Non-vintage blends are more common and represent over 90% of Champagne production; they reflect the "house style" of the producer. Vintage Champagnes are only produced in the best years with 100% of the wines originating from the vintage specified. They are naturally rarer than the NV offerings and are usually more expensive.
Prestige Cuvée or Tete de Cuvée: These Champagnes represent the highest expression of the Champagne House and include their most prized wines. They are almost always the product of Grand Cru vineyards and are aged much longer than the 3-year minimum for Vintage Champagnes. They are usually quite expensive and include such well-known names as Moet & Chandon's Dom Perignon, Champagne Louis Roederer's Cristal and Taittinger's Comtes de Champagne. If you really want to kick it up a notch this New Year's Eve, these are the bottles for you!
Late Disgorged: a style of Vintage Champagne similar in quality to the Prestige Cuvée, but which spends extra time aging on the yeast prior to release. They can be decades old and represent a special dedication on the part of the Champagne house to produce them.
Different style of Champagnes have different levels of sweetness. A Brut style is probably the most common and is perceived on the palate as dry. A Demi-Sec, on the other hand, has a perceivable sweetness to it. The levels of sweetness for Champagne from driest to sweetest are:
Non-Dosage - less than 3 grams of sugar per liter
Extra Brut or Brut Sauvage - less than 6 grams of sugar per liter
Brut - less than 12 grams of sugar per liter
Extra Dry - 12 to 17 grams sugar per liter
Sec - 17 to 32 grams of sugar per liter
Demi-Sec - 32-50 grams of sugar per liter
Doux - 50 grams or more of sugar per liter
- Store Champagne under 60 degrees Fahrenheit to ensure it stability but do not keep it in the refrigerator for long periods of time!
- The best serving temperature for most Champagne is 40-45 degrees F; however, older vintages or Prestige Cuvées are probably most enjoyable closer to 50 degrees.
- Refrigerate your Champagne at least 3 hours but not longer than a day or so prior to serving. After pouring, keep the bottle on ice to retain the Champagne's chill for as long as possible.
- Serve in a tulip shaped flute or glass to preserve the wine's sparkle and aromas.