How much do you really know about everyone’s favourite celebratory tipple? This year’s Le French GourMay food and wine festival is featuring the Champagne region, and, with a range of workshops and masterclasses being held for the rest of the month, aims to increase people’s knowledge and enjoyment of different champagne types.
It’s well-known that only sparkling wines from the Champagne region of France can bear the name ‘champagne’. But did you know that the reasons for this date back to the formation of the Association Viticole Champenoise (or wine growing association of Champagne) in 1898? This group was instrumental in the formation of rules that stipulated only sparkling wines from the Champagne region which had been created using specific methods could be called ‘champagne’.
Champagne which meets agreed production guidelines can carry the Appellation d’Origine Controlee (AOC) certification. The official website of the Comite Champagne says AOC designation links a product with its geographical origin and makes it subject to rules of production and manufacturing.
In the case of champagne, to achieve AOC certification, it must be made using black pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes and white chardonnay grapes from authorised vine stocks. There are also guidelines controlling yield, minimum alcohol content, press yields and aging. These include that secondary fermentation must occur in the bottle with a minimum of 15 months for non-vintage champagne and three years for vintage. Most of the champagne types produced today is non-vintage, meaning that it is a blended from grapes from two or more harvests. Vintage champagne must be made 100 per cent from the year indicated on the label.
So, you are preparing for a party and have been charged with selecting the champers. What are the different champagne types?
Firstly, the designation relates to the types of grapes used or the amounts of grapes added. The second factor used to describe champagne types relates to its sweetness, which varies depending on the amount of sugar or grape must added after the second fermentation. Called the dosage, it impacts the sweetness of the finished wine.
#1 Blancs de blancs: This means the champagne has been made with 100 per cent white chardonnay grapes and usually ages well.
#2 Blanc de noirs: This is a light-coloured champagne made from the juice of dark-skinned grapes – this is more common for a sparkling wine than a champagne.
#3 Rose: Rose champagne is made by mixing a little red wine, usually less than 20 per cent, with white champagne.
#4 Prestige Cuvee: This is the top of the range offering from a producer, such as Moet & Chandon’s Dom Perignon or Roederer’s Cristal.
#5 Extra-brut: This means the dosage had less than 6g of sugar per litre.
#6 Brut: This means the champagne is dry, and in technical terms that the ‘dosage’ added to the bottle contains very little sugar.
#7 Extra-dry: Extra dry wines actually have a dosage with a small amount of sugar, so they are slightly sweet.
#8 Sec: Sec wines have a dosage of between 17 and 32 grams of sugar per litre.
#9 Demi-sec: Demi-sec champagnes mean the dosage had a fair amount of sugar. These pair well with desserts or wedding cake.
#10 Doux: A doux champagne is very sweet, made with 50 grams of sugar per litre.
This article was brought to you by:
Le French GourMay. The festival runs from 1 to 31 May, with events all over town | frenchgourmay.com
Want to know more? Check out our Wine & Dine section!