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Types of Champagne

There are types of champagne with different classifications. The classifications are by the type of grape used in making the wine, by blend (what vintages of grapes are blended to result in the wine), and by sweetness.

Wine is any alcoholic beverage made from fermented grapes. Champagne is a type of sparkling wine (fizzy wine with substantial levels of carbon dioxide) made only in France’s Champagne region.

Other sparkling wines are made in other regions of France and the world, but the name “Champagne” is reserved under appellation laws for wines made in a specific way, with peculiar vineyard practices and methods of pressing grapes, grapes from a peculiar location, and secondary fermentation.

Fermentation is the process by which an agent causes an organic substance to break down into smaller substances. In winemaking, it is the process by which sugar is broken down into sugar. Fermentation occurs twice in the making of champagne.

The first fermentation is called primary fermentation. Grape juice obtained from crushing the grapes is bottled or poured into a vessel and yeast is added. It is then left to sit still away from sunlight for about three to seven days.

In primary fermentation, the sugar in the grape juice is turned into alcohol and carbon dioxide by the yeast. After this process, the resulting wine is still (opposite of sparkling in winemaking) and needs to go through a second fermentation.

This second fermentation process is known as secondary fermentation. This involves pouring the wine into another vessel, adding rock sugar and yeast (Saccharomyces cerevisiae) again, and letting the wine sit once more.

Secondary fermentation is a long process; it usually takes about one to two weeks. Here, the yeast acts on the added sugar and converts it to alcohol and carbon dioxide. This makes the wine more alcoholic and fizzy.

A minimum of a year and a half is required to completely develop all the flavors of champagne. When the grape harvest is particularly good in a year, a millésime is declared. This simply means “vintage”.

The label “millésime” means that the wine was made with only grapes from that good harvest year. It means that the champagne is the product of a single vintage rather than a blend of multiple years’ harvests. The wine is left to mature for at least 3 years, sealed in bottles with crown caps.

This method of making champagne is known as Méthode Traditionelle, Méthode Classique, or formerly Méthode Champenoise. More processes are involved to conclude the process of making champagne.

Remuage (“riddling” in English) is manipulating the bottles to remove the crown caps on them. Disgorgement is the removal of the bottles’ caps. The sweetness level of the wine is then adjusted with previous and additional sugar and the bottle is quickly corked to retain carbon dioxide levels.

The different types of champagne are listed and explained below by their classifications. These classifications and more may be accessed on Wikipedia.

Types of Champagne by Grape Variety

Of the seven (7) varieties of grapes used in producing champagne according to appellation laws, Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir are the three main ones.

The remaining four (Arbane, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc, and Pinot Gris) are minor grape varieties and are grown and used less. However, all these grape varieties are used in making other types of wine.

Arbane

Arbane Grape bunch on a vine in leaves
Arbane Grape bunch on a vine in leaves.

Arbane, or Arbanne, is a variety of white grapes from France which is grown in the Aube region of Champagne. It is currently a very rare grape variety but is still blended with other grapes in the making of champagne.

Only one champagne house produces champagne made from only Arbane grapes. This champagne is called “Veilles Veignes” and it is produced by the Moutard-Diligent Champagne house in Buxeuil.

Arbane is permitted to be used in regular vintage and non-vintage cuvée, blended with Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir. It is not used in making Blanc de Blanc which is only made from Chardonnay. A cuvée is simply a blend or batch of wine, especially champagne.

Chardonnay

Chardonnay grapes on the vine
Chardonnay grapes on the vine.

Chardonnay is another variety of grapes used in making wine. It is a green-skinned grape variety used for the production of white wines. It is now grown in several places where wine is produced despite originating in eastern France’s Burgundy region.

Some other names for Chardonnay are Beaunois, Gamay blanc, and Melon blanc. It is a very neutral grape on its own and is the second most widely planted variety of white grapes in France.

Chardonnay grapes are used in the production of Blanc de Blanc champagnes but are mostly blended with Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir to make other champagne styles.

Petit Meslier

Petit Meslier grapes on a vine taken by Benoit Tarlant
Petit Meslier grapes on a vine taken by Benoit Tarlant.

Champagne may also be made with Petit Meslier, another variety of rare white grapes used less frequently. It has a high capacity for retaining acidity and origins in France. It may also be called Aubin, Barnais, Crene, Hennequin or Melier.

Petit Meslier grapes have been made into single varietal (made with one variety of grapes) champagne, cuvée of the six varieties of champagne grapes (excluding Pinot Gris), and cuvée of all seven varieties of champagne grapes.

Pinot Blanc

Pinot Blanc grapes in the sunlight ready for harvest
Pinot Blanc grapes in the sunlight ready for harvest.

Pinot Blanc is a type of grape used to make white wines, including champagne. It is the result of a point genetic mutation of Pinot Noir grapes. It resembles and has been mistaken for Chardonnay.

Grapes of this variety are only grown in small amounts in the Champagne region of France. While they are used to make many other types of wine, they are used in various blends of champagne. They may also be called “Blanc Vrai”.

Pinot Gris

Pinot Gris grapes on the vine
Pinot Gris grapes on the vine.

Also called Pinot Grigio, Grauburgunder, or Fromenteau, Pinot Gris is another variety of grapes used in producing white wine. The skin of this grape variety may be white, grayish blue, brownish pink, or even black in color.

With origins in Burgundy, Pinot Gris is produced in several winemaking locations across the globe. It was once widely planted in Champagne and used more in the production of wines but its cultivation in the area is now significantly lower.

Pinot Meunier

Pinot Meunier grapes on the vine taken by Winniepix on Flickr
Pinot Meunier grapes on the vine taken by Winniepix on Flickr.

Champagne may also be made using Pinot Meunier grapes. This variety of red wine grapes is also commonly known as Meunier or Schwarzriesling. It is approximately one-third of all the grapes cultivated in the region of Champagne.

This grape variety is able to bud and ripen more reliably than Pinot Noir. It has been the most widely planted grape used in champagne-making. It is very aromatic and adds fruity flavors to the wine.

Pinot Meunier is used to making champagne that is intended to be consumed young, as it does not have as much aging potential as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. It is commonly blended with other grape varieties to make champagne.

Pinot Noir

Pinot Noir grapes
Pinot Noir grapes.

Pinot Noir is a black-skinned grape variety used to make red wines. It is also called Blauburgunder, Spätburgunder, or Pinot Nero. It is difficult to grow and make into wine; it is actually the most difficult of champagne grape varieties.

The most common use of Pinot Noir is in the making of champagne. It is blended alongside Chardonnay and Pinot Meunier to make champagne and other sparkling wines in other places.

Types of Champagne by Grape Blend

Grape blend involves the varieties of grapes used to produce champagne. The wine could be vintage (a product of grapes from a single vintage year) or non-vintage (the product of blending grapes from multiple vintage years).

By grape blend, there are five (5) types of champagne: Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs, Prestige Cuvée, Rosé Champagne, and Vintage Champagne. They are listed and explained hereunder.

Blanc de Blancs

Blanc de Blancs champagne
Blanc de Blancs champagne.

In English, “Blanc de Blancs” means “white from whites” or “white of whites”. This is used to refer to the type of wine or champagne made entirely from white-skinned grapes.

In the making of champagne, this term means that the wine is made from Chardonnay grapes alone or Pinot Blanc grapes in rarer cases.

Blanc de Noirs

Blanc de Noirs Champagne
Blanc de Noirs Champagne.

Champagne called “blanc de noirs” is any type of champagne made only from black-skinned grapes. This French term means “white from blacks” or “white of blacks”.

The only black-skinned grapes used to produce champagne are Pinot Mineur and Pinot Noir. Blanc de Noirs is a blend of either of these grape varieties or both of them.

Prestige Cuvée

Prestige Cuvée Gold Brut cooled in a bucket poured in glasses
Prestige Cuvée Gold Brut cooled in a bucket poured in glasses.

Also called a cuvée de prestige, this type of champagne is a blend considered to be at the top of a producer’s range, which is their most notable and highest standard champagne.

This type of wine is very expensive because it is produced with the best resources and highest standards available. It is usually named after notable people with a connection to the producer and presented in a bottle with a peculiar shape.

Examples are “Cristal” by Louis Roederer, “Grand Siècle” by Laurent-Perrier, “Dom Pérignon” by Moët & Chandon, “Cuvée Femme” by Duval-Leroy, “Gold Brut” by Armand de Brignac and “Cuvée Sir Winston Churchill” by Pol Roger.

Rosé Champagne

Rosé Champagne chilled in a bucket and poured in some champagne glasses
Rosé Champagne chilled in a bucket and poured into some champagne glasses.

Rosé is a type of wine that is colored by briefly coming in contact with the skins of red grapes. It is only light pink to near purple in color, depending on the grape varieties and techniques used, so it does not qualify as red wine.

Rosé champagne is made by extracting the juice from the grapes gently and minimizing contact with the red grape skins. This results in light pink wine (giving rosé champagne the alternative name “pink champagne”) with a fruity aroma and earthy flavor.

Two methods may be used in making rosé champagne. They are the saignée method and the d’assemblage method. The latter method is more common or more in use than the former.

The less common saignée method involves leaving the clear juice of dark grapes to permeate or soak through the dark skins for a brief time. The resulting wine is lightly colored and flavored by the skins.

The d’assemblage method involves blending a small amount of still red wine with a sparkling wine cuvée. This results in the production of rosé with a more predictable and consistent pink color than they made using the saignée method.

Vintage

Vintage Champagne bottle
Vintage Champagne bottle.

Champagne is labeled vintage with a year besides it, or simply has a year stamped on its bottle, when it is a blend of grapes from only one harvest year, a good year of the grape harvest. Other non-vintage champagnes are made by blending grapes from multiple harvest years.

Vintage champagne is much more expensive than non-vintage champagne because there’s less of it (only about 5% of total champagne production). Vintages may be made only three or four times in a decade and so they are rare.

Types of Champagne by Sweetness

Champagne may also be classified into types by sweetness. Sweetness may mean the level of sugar in the wine or the level of acidity it contains. By sweetness, there are seven (7) types of champagne.

In ascending order of sweetness, the types of champagne by sweetness are Brut Zero (or Brut Nature), Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Sec (or Extra Dry), Sec (or Dry), Demi-Sec, and Doux. These are all listed and explained below.

Brut

Brut bring poured into a glass
Brut being poured into a glass.

“Brut” is a French word meaning “raw”, and it refers to unsweetened, very dry wine. Brut champagne is a type of champagne with less than 12 grams of residual sugar per liter. It is a type of low-sugar wine and is the most common type of champagne, by sweetness, made today.

Brut Zero

Brut Zero bottle
Brut Zero bottle.

Champagne is labeled brut zero when it is very dry and has no added sugar towards the end of production. This is the driest form of champagne, also referred to as “brut nature” or “non-dosé”. It typically has less than 3 grams of residual sugar per liter after production.

Demi Sec

Demi Sec or half-dry champagne option
Demi Sec or half-dry champagne option.

“Demi-sec” is French for “half dry”. It however is used to label medium sweet champagne (or other types of wine). Demi-sec champagne is a type of champagne with between 32 and 50 grams of sugar per liter when finished.

Doux

Doux Champagne in glasses surrounded by chocolates
Doux Champagne in glasses surrounded by chocolates.

Doux champagne is a very sweet type of champagne with about 50 grams of residual sugar per liter or more. “Doux” translated from French to English means “soft”. This is the sweetest type of champagne.

Extra Brut

Extra Brut Champagne
Extra Brut Champagne.

Champagne is referred to as extra brut (extra raw) when it has about less than 6 grams of residual sugar per liter when bottled. Its residual sugar content ranges from 3 to 6 grams per liter.

Extra Sec

Extra Sec Champagne
Extra Sec Champagne.

Also called extra dry, extra sec champagne is the type of champagne with between 12 and 17 grams of residual sugar left after bottling. It is drier than sec champagne but sweeter than brut.

Sec

Sec or dry champagne being served
Sec or dry champagne being served.

“Sec” is the French word for “dry”. Champagne may be labeled sec when it has between 17 and 32 grams of residual sugar per liter. This type of champagne is sweeter than extra sec but drier than demi-sec.

Throughout the 19th century and into the early 20th century, champagne was generally much sweeter than it is today. It was drunk as a dessert wine, after the meal, rather than with the meal as a table wine, except in Britain.

At this time, the sweetness of champagne was not referred to by the terms above. It was instead designated a name bearing the destination country, roughly as:

  • Goût Américain: This term means “American taste” and refers to champagne containing between 110 and 165 grams of residual sugar.
  • Goût Anglais: This term means “English taste” and refers to champagne with between 22 and 66 grams of residual sugar.
  • Goût Français: This term means “French taste” and refers to champagne containing between 165 and 200 grams of residual sugar.
  • Goût Russe: This term means “Russian taste” and refers to champagne containing between 200 and 300 grams of residual sugar.

FAQs

What are the 3 types of Champagne?

Champagne may be divided into types on the basis of three (3) considerations or classifications: the grape variety, grape blend, and by sweetness. There are seven (7) types of champagne by grape variety, five (5) types of champagne by grape blend, and seven (7) types of champagne by sweetness.

What are types of Champagne called?

By grape variety, the types of champagne are Arbane, Chardonnay, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir. By grape blend, the types of champagne are Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs, Prestige Cuvée, Rosé Champagne, and Vintage Champagne. By sweetness and in ascending order of sweetness (from the driest to the sweetest), the types of champagne are Brut Zero, Extra Brut, Brut, Extra Sec, Sec, Demi-Sec, and Doux.

What type of Champagne is most popular?

The most popular type of champagne is Brut champagne.

What is a sweet Champagne called?

Champagne that is sweet is called Doux. This is the sweetest type of champagne. Medium sweet champagne is referred to as Demi Sec.

Conclusion

This article explains types of champagne under three classifications: grape variety, grape blend, and by sweetness. By grape variety, the seven (7) types of champagne are Arbane, Chardonnay, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Meunier, and Pinot Noir.

By grape blend, there are five (5) types of champagne: Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs, Prestige Cuvée, Rosé Champagne, and Vintage Champagne. By sweetness, the types of champagne are Brut, Brut Zero, Demi-Sec, Doux, Extra Brut, Extra Sec, and Sec.

The taste of this type of wine is different from bottle to bottle and this difference is dependent on several factors including the type of grapes used in the winemaking process and how long the wine is aged.

Both older and younger champagnes however have light yet complex flavors and tastes. They taste like what they are: sparkling white grape juice or carbonated white wine. Some primary flavors of champagne include peach, cherry, citrus, almond, cream, and toast.

Champagne may also be used as a cooking wine instead of a dessert or table wine. It is used in the preparation of “poulet au champagne”, which means “chicken with champagne” in English. This dish is popular in Marne, France.

Some other dishes that feature champagne as a cooking wine are “huîtres au champagne”, which is French for “oysters with champagne”, and champagne zabaglione. There is a particular etiquette surrounding the consumption of champagne.

This type of wine is usually served in a champagne flute, which is a glass vessel with a long stem, a tall, narrow bowl, thin sides, and an etched bottom. It is a tall piece of cruet with a tapered conical shape.

A champagne flute holds about 18 to 30 cl (6.1 to 10.1 US fluid ounces) of liquid. The flute is shaped the way it is with the intent of reducing surface area, in turn preserving carbonation and maximizing nucleation (the visible bubbles and lines of bubbles).

Champagne is always served cold with its ideal drinking temperature being 7 to 9 degrees Celsius, which is about 45 to 48 degrees Fahrenheit. The bottle may oftentimes be chilled in a bucket of ice and water about half an hour before it is intended to be opened.

This chilling also ensures the champagne is less gassy and can be opened without being spilled. There are vessels called champagne buckets made for this reason. They are larger in volume than standard wine cooling buckets to accommodate the larger bottle, more water, and more ice.

The opening of champagne bottles is also done with caution to avoid wasting the wine. To reduce the risk of spilling or spraying the champagne when that is not intended, the bottle is opened by holding the cork and rotating the bottle at an angle in order to ease out the stopper.

Instead of pulling the cork out, this method prevents the cork from speedily flying out of the bottle at speed and making a loud sound. Also, holding the bottle at an angle allows air in and helps prevent the champagne from brimming over or flowing out of the bottle.

Another method of opening a champagne bottle is called sabrage. This tradition started in the late 1700s by Napoléon and the Hussars and is used for special occasions. It involves using a saber to open a champagne bottle.

A saber also called a champagne sword or sabre à champagne, is an instrument resembling a large knife that is made for sabrage. It may have a short or long blade with the edges blunt.

The wielder of the saber slides the instrument along the body seam of the bottle to the lip to break the top of the neck away, leaving the neck of the bottle open and ready to pour. The term sabrage may also be used for simply breaking the head of the bottle.

Champagne and other sparkling wines are poured while tilting the glass at an angle and sliding in the liquid smoothly along the side to preserve most of the bubbles, as opposed to pouring the liquid directly down and creating a head of mousse (a mass of tiny bubbles that forms at the top of a glass of champagne or other sparkling wine).

Champagne had become an integral part of sports celebrations, starting when Moët & Chandon began offering their champagne to the winners of Formula 1 Grand Prix events. The spraying of champagne as a celebratory tradition started in 1967.

During a victory podium ceremony at Le Mans, Dan Gurney, a former motorsports racing driver, held his thumb over the open bottle of champagne, shook it, and deliberately sprayed its content on onlookers. Champagne is now widely accepted as a tool for celebration in many other sports.

Kitchen Professor author
About the Author: Paige Elizabeth

Paige Elizabeth is a 3D printer enthusiast with a love for baking and cooking highly technical food. If anything in the culinary world can be improved by science, she is all over it! Paige is currently a college student studying Food & Nutrition.

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