A Champagne Guide
To gain the most from every bottle, we’ll take you through all the specifications that make this alcoholic beverage unique based on where it was produced, the accompanying sweetness levels, and the different styles available.
Types Of Champagne
Although people often categorize champagne types from dry to sweet to characterize the range of flavor profiles, different producers have their signature styles that can be further divided into three categories.
Maisons are the most prolific houses for this prestigious bubbly wine on the market and are widely considered the best types of Champagnes available from the market. Think Bollinger, Veuve Clicquot, and Moët. Maisons source their grapes from all over the Champagne region and produce their fizz with these label terms that you may look out for:
- NM, Négociant Manipulant – This is a Maison who buys most of his grapes from other grape growers. Anything less than 94% of estate fruit must be classified as NM, Maison Champagne
- MA, Marque d’Acheteur – Otherwise known as the ‘Buyer’s Own Brand,’ this term usually references a retailer or a restaurant that buys a finished wine and sells it under their own private brand or label
- ND, Négociant Distributeur – Classifies a buyer who labels and distributes Champagne but isn’t responsible for growing the grapes or involved in the production process
Cooperatives are the specific villages in the Champagne region where cuvée is made with multiple growers’ expertise in the same region.
- CM, Coopérative Manipulant – Refers to a grower’s co-op that offers the resources to produce wine under a single brand
Most often, Vignerons are growers and producers (or even a single person or family farm) producing their grapes and making their own wine in a specific region.
- RM, Récoltant Manipulant – This is a grower and/or producer who uses a 95% minimum of estate fruit in their end-product. It’s very much like a Maison, but Maisons usually use RM as a classification for a sub-label or brand
- SR, Société de Récoltants – Classifies a union of growers that shares its resources and markets its brands collectively
- RC, Récoltant Coopérateur – Refers to a grower and/or producer who uses a co-op to make their brand’s product at a specific regional facility
Champagne Sweetness Scale
Now that we’ve covered all the different types of Champagne, we need to move on to the sweetness levels. By looking at a bottle, you’ll be able to tell if it’ll be nectar sweet or bone dry just by checking the levels of residual sugar and the categories these different kinds of champagne fall under:
Brut Nature (aka Brut Zero)
Residual Sugar: 0-3 g/L
0-2 calories and up to 0.15 carbs for a total of 91–93 calories per 5 oz (~150 ml) serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.
Residual Sugar: 0-6 g/L
0-6 calories and up to 0.9 carbs per 5 oz (~150 ml) serving. A total of 91–96 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.
Residual Sugar: 0-12 g/L
0-7 calories and up to 1.8 carbs per 5 oz (~150 ml) serving. A total of 91–98 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.
Residual Sugar: 12-17 g/L RS
7-10 calories and 1.8–2.6 carbs per 5 oz (~150 ml) serving. A total of 98–101 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.
Dry (aka Secco)
Residual Sugar: 17-32 g/L
10-19 calories and 2.6–4.8 carbs per 5 oz (~150 ml) serving. A total of 101–111 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.
Residual Sugar: 32-50 g/L
19-30 calories and 4.8–7.5 carbs per 5 oz (~150 ml) serving. A total of 111–121 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.
Residual Sugar: 50+ g/L
30+ calories and more than 7.5 carbs per 5 oz (~150 ml) serving. More than 121 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.
This part of the Champagne guide takes you beyond the barrel through the different production styles, which rely mostly on the use of three primary grapes.
Blanc de Blancs
This style of sparkling gold relies on the use of 100% white grapes. This can mean that without the fizz, this type of Champagne is a Chardonnay. Blanc de Blancs are typically zesty and apple-like in taste and are considered the best Champagne for beginners to try.
Blanc de Noirs
100% usage of black grapes can be used to craft sweet Champagne types and contain Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes, delivering delicious berry flavors.
Pink style bubblies are made by blending blanc with a minuscule amount of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier wines. The sole purpose here is to add berry flavors to the mix that finishes off with low tannins and high acidity profile.
Another crucial factor in the production of this famous fizzy wine is the matter of how long it has been aged. Essentially, there are two age classifications at hand:
- Non-Vintage – These are aged for no less than 15 months and allow producers to make a consistent house each year. Commonly, NVs are fruitier than vintage styles
- Vintage – Aged for no less than three years, these are created when a harvest is particularly good. The result is a creamy and yeasty style favored by most as Champagne for beginners
However, there’s far more to be understood when it comes to fizz and the aging process in general. To explore this process, read more about how wines age
Growing Regions Of Champagne
The five main growing regions of Champagne each have their distinct quality, and within each area, you’ll find certain traits to be prevalent.
Montagne de Reims
Perched on the hills near the Reims, vineyards of this region focus on Pinot Noir grape-growing and usually produce a rich flavor, thanks to the southeastern facing soil that achieves optimal ripeness. If you’re familiar with Krug, then you’ll know that this brand uses the grapes from the Montagne de Reims.
Vallée de la Marne
This sloped valley along the Marne river only houses one Grand Cru vineyard right outside Épernay. Here, they focus on growing the Pinot Meunier grape, which ripens with ease in this region’s cooler climate, resulting in smokier mushroom flavors.
Côte des Blancs
Facing east, the slopes of this region collects plenty of sunshine and provides the soil for the Chardonnay grape to flourish in. Blanc de Blancs from this region produces some of the finest single-varietal Champagne wines out there.
Côte de Sézanne
Just south of Côte des Blancs lies this region that also grows Chardonnay, but wines are mostly blended into larger Maisons.
Côte des Bar
Situated quite a distance from the rest of the Champagne region on the border near Burgundy, Pinot Noir grapes grow to their fullest potential to produce a more decadent style in its bubbly variety. But since this is a newer region, there are no vineyards to demarcate its quality, but it does prove to have much value.
Best Champagne Clubs
If you’re all about the fizz, Champagne ought to be your drink of choice and regardless of what you buy, make it a journey of discovery.
And should you need more help to weave your way through the maze that’s Champagne, try one of these wine clubs for expert guidance on buying the right one for the right occasion:
- Winc - Click for a full review
- WSJ Wine Club - Click for a full review
- Laithwaites - Click for a full review
All three of these wine clubs offer magnificent membership plans that can be altered, paused, and canceled at any time. Read more if you want to understand or explore more about what sort of plans and subscriptions Champagne clubs have and what it offers to its valued members.
What’s more, it offers a wide range of choices based on your taste and budget.
Alternatively, you can scan through our collection to see what other options are out there in terms of wine club memberships.