How to Choose Champagne
In the first place, Champagne is not cheap, so you can’t fool around. Additionally, Champagne’s production methods, regional differences, and labeling jargon can make it quite intimidating to most of us.
This article helps identify the important things to pay attention to on the label (or while researching) to choose Champagne. So, whether you love a creamy, toasty style of “shampy” or like it dry and lean, you’ll be able to find what you’re looking for!
Let’s get one thing out of the way first: not all sparkling wine is Champagne. Champagne refers explicitly to sparkling wine made in the region of Champagne, France.
Champagne Sweetness Level
The sweetness in Champagne is unlike sweetness in wine. It comes in the form of a sweetened “dosage” (a mixture of wine and sugar or grape must) that’s added at the end of the second fermentation (the part that makes the bubbles).
The dosage is essential because acidity is so high, it would be undrinkable (or like drinking straight lemon juice).
So that you know, most Champagne is produced at a Brut level of sweetness.
Standard, Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs, Rosé
There are 3 primary grapes used to make Champagne, and they are Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. For those in the know, there are also 4 much rarer grapes of Champagne: Arbane, Pinot Blanc, Petite Meslier, and Fromenteau (aka Pinot Gris).
How these grapes are used (or not used) gives us a clue towards the style. If Champagne doesn’t have a style listed, you can assume that the producer made a blend of all three grapes in a blanc (white) style.
Blanc de Blancs
(white of whites) This is a blanc style Champagne made with 100% white grapes. In Champagne, this means the wine is 100% Chardonnay. Blanc de Blancs typically have more lemon and apple-like fruit flavors.
There are, of course, a few rare exceptions to this rule with a few very rare grapes (in the same region), including Pinot Blanc, Petite Meslier, and Arbane, but for the most part, Blanc de Blancs is 100% Chardonnay.
Blanc de Noirs
(white of blacks) This is a blanc style Champagne made with 100% black grapes.
In Champagne, this means some combination of just Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier. Blanc de Noirs typically have more strawberry and white raspberry flavors.
The pink style is usually made by blending blanc Champagne with a teensy bit of red Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier wine.
The red wine made for Champagne is very different from Pinot Noir you might think of. Its purpose is to provide pure fruit flavors such as strawberry and raspberry in the taste. Wines are tart, with low tannin and very high acidity.
It doesn’t take a lot red wine to make rosé, and several producers use 10% or less Pinot Noir for their rosé Champagne and visit ajsmuskego.com.