Let’s start right at the beginning.
This article will answer the champagne basics, the information you’ve always wanted to know, but haven’t been game to ask.
In a world where champagne can often be drowned in snobbery and pretentious nonsense, it can be incredibly awkward to admit you don’t know what ‘Grand Cru’ means. A description of ‘Grand Cru’ and other basic terms is outlined below.
Blanc de Blancs
Literally ‘white from white’. White champagne made exclusively from white grapes, usually chardonnay.
Blanc de Noirs
Literally ‘white from black’. White champagne made exclusively from the dark-skinned grapes pinot noir and/or meunier. This is achieved by gentle pressing, removing the juice from the skins before any colour leaches out.
Chef de Cave
The ‘chief ’ or ‘chef ’ in the cellar (champagne winemaker).
Brut means raw/dry, containing less than 12g/L sugar (formerly less than 15g/L sugar – champagne is becoming pleasingly drier!). 12g/L of sugar is equivalent to less than a teaspoon in a cup of coffee. Extra Brut has even less sugar (less than 6g/L).
The first 2,050 litres of juice from a 4,000-kilogram press. This is the best bit of the juice. The term also refers to an individual blend or style, and this is its most common use on labels.
Sec = Dry, though ironically it’s sweeter than brut, with between 17 and 32g/L of sugar. We’re up to two teaspoons of sugar in your cup of coffee now!
Demi-sec = Medium Dry (sweeter). 32-50g/L of sugar. If you drink your coffee with 3 or 4 teaspoons of sugar, this could be the champagne for you.
Cru, Premier Cru, Grand Cru
This is Champagne’s antiquated vineyard classification system. The highest vineyard classification is Grand Cru. In Champagne, this classification is crudely applied to a village and all the vineyards within its bounds acquire the same classification. Seventeen villages are classified as Grand Cru. Premier cru is the next tier, with 41 villages. All other champagne villages are simply referred to as Crus. There are 320 in all.
Wine from grapes picked in a single year.
A champagne containing wine from more than one vintage (year).
A pink version of champagne. It’s typically made by blending champagne with a small amount of local red wine. Sometimes, the Chef de Cave will create the pink colour by allowing the skins of red grapes to leach their colour into the blend. Why is rosé champagne so expensive? Find out here.
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