Champagne is one of the world’s truly distinct wines. Every aspect of this French-originating wine is distinguished by careful choices in the growing and harvesting of its grapes, the intricate methods of its production and the specific practices used in its consumption. This unique nature also carries over to some of the terminology associated with Champagne. Some of these terms are specific to Champagne, while others can also be used when discussing other wines. All are worth knowing if you’re thinking of buying a great bottle of Champagne for your next special occasion.
Terminology of Champagne Production
On your next trip to your nearby wine shop, or if you go to a wine tasting, you might be confronted with terms you may or not be familiar with regarding the wine’s production. It’ll be worth learning a few of these when making a purchase.
• Appellation: This refers to the legally designated region from which a specifically labeled wine originates. Champagnes earn their appellation by coming from Champagne-Ardenne, France.
• Must: The juice resulting from the initial pressing of the recently harvested wine grapes, often containing a substantial amount of crushed grape skin. In Champagne, the skin won’t affect the wine’s color, which is why black grapes such as Pinot Noir do not make champagne red.
• Methode Champenoise: This refers to all of the unique steps involved in Champagne production, from the first fermentation to the final dosage of sugar.
• Terroir: A French term with no literal English translation, this essentially means the overall climate and geography of a given wine-producing region.
Terminology of Champagne Classification
• Blanc de blanc: Champagne made solely from white Chardonnay grapes.
• Blanc de noir: Champagne made only with black Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier grapes.
• Blend: Also called non-vintage, this refers to what most Champagnes are–namely, a fusion of different wines from multiple harvests.
• Brut: Champagne with little or no sugar.
• Cuvee: The best champagnes of a given winery.
• Demi-Sec: Champagne with more sugar added than usual.
Champagne Tasting Terms
• Dry: In Champagne, this refers to a Champagne with no sweetness.
• Floral: Many champagnes are described as having a scent reminiscent of flowers.
• Full-bodied: A Champagne with strong, distinct flavors.
• Light: Used to describe less substantive Champagnes, this term isn’t necessarily pejorative, though any “light” Champagne won’t be as esteemed as a full-bodied wine, a consideration worth remembering when purchasing Champagne.
• Mouthfeel: Literally, the way a taste of Champagne feels in the mouth before swallowing, including all aspects of taste.
• Nose: The wine-tasting term for a wine’s range of aromas, sometimes alternatively referred to as a “bouquet.”