Know your Brut from your Sec in this quick guide to tricky champagne jargons.
All champagnes are the same, right? Wrong. Like many other wine, spirits and alcoholic drinks, champagne has many different variations, each one more unique than the other. A common denominator, however, is that they all come from the same region in France: Champagne.
Essentially a sparkling wine, champagne gets its name from the region it is produced in. Similar to the territorial values of cognac and tequila, you can’t call it champagne if it wasn’t made there. Beyond its fancy name, there are also fancier terms that describe particular bottles of champagne.
Those not closely acquainted with these champagne jargons might be intimidated, but worry not. With our quick guide, you’ll be a pro at these champagne jargons in no time. Not only will you understand that bottle of bubbly more, but you’ll also be able to hold your own in a conversation about champagnes. Ready to brush up on your champagne jargons? Let’s go.
Blanc de Blancs
This means that the champagne is made with only white grapes such as Chardonnay.
Blanc de Noirs
On the other hand, this means that the bottle of champagne is made with only black grapes, such as Pinot Noir.
This word is one that you’ll see often on the label of a bottle of champagne. It signifies the flavour profile of the champagne, which is dry with a hint of sweetness. Extra Brut is less sweet than the Brut, while Brut Nature or Brut Zero means that there is no added sugar.
This one’s a little tricky because it doesn’t apply to Champagne specifically. “Crémant” means creamy in French, and is a style of sparkling wine made at lower pressure in other parts of France — not Champagne.
Now, this is the word you need to be paying attention to if you’re looking for a quality bottle of champagne. Cru here refers to the quality ranking system of Champagne villages. At the top of the list are Grand Cru villages in Champagne, which are ranked 100% on quality. This is followed by Premier Cru villages (90-99% on quality) and Cru (80-89% on quality).
In champagne lingo, cuvée refers to the blend of champagne. Like wine, every champagne brand has its own signature blend comprising different types of wines. Essentially, you can refer to cuvée as the “house style”. Prestige Cuvée, on the other hand, refers to the most expensive champagne in a brand’s range.
This is where the magic happens. Disgorgement is the process of removing the yeast sediment from the bottle after the second fermentation. This sediment is already frozen and is “unplugged” from the neck of the bottle. It’s worth noting the date of disgorgement on the bottle labels because the ones that are disgorged earlier will taste very different than the ones disgorged at a later date.
“Lees” here refers to the yeast sediment that occurs during the second fermentation of champagne. As explained under disgorgement, the time in which you disgorge a bottle of champagne can greatly affect its taste. This is called lees ageing – quality wines sometimes go through a longer lees aging process to give more complexity to the champagne. As a rule of thumb, vintage champagnes go through lees ageing for a minimum of three years, while non-vintage champagnes need to be aged for at least 15 months.
Also referring to the flavour profile or style of the champagne. Although “Sec” means dry in French, this style of champagne is slightly sweeter than the Brut. Demi-Sec, on the other hand, is sweeter than the Sec.
Essentially pink champagne made by blending a little red wine to champagne. Another method of making rosé champagne is with the Saignée method, which just uses skin from red grapes and not blending regular champagne with red wine.
Meaning “bleeding” in French, it’s one process of making rose champagne. The rosy colour of the champagne is a result of the skin of red grapes “bleeding” into the champagne.
Vintage / Non-Vintage
When you see the word “Vintage” on a champagne bottle, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s an old bottle. Vintage in wine terms here means that all the grapes used in the champagne were harvested in the same year – which usually means an exceptionally good harvest season. In the same vein, Non-Vintage champagnes are made of a blend of different grape harvests.