How To Read A Champagne Label

Type of Grape

Designations by grape type are typically either Blanc de Blancs, which is made only from white grapes, or Blanc de Noirs, which are made exclusively from red grapes. Despite the name, Blanc de Noirs also appear white in the glass just like Blanc de Blanc, but the two styles do have subtly different flavor profiles.

"Blanc de Blancs tend to be more fresh, lean and bright while Blanc de Noirs tend to be richer, denser and more red fruit driven," explains Charles-Armand de Belenet, general manager of Champagne Bollinger. However, not all champagnes are made purely from either red or white grapes—indeed, a blend of the two types is very common, so don't be put off if you don't see any "Blanc" on your bottle.

Unlike their still counterparts, rosé champagnes are typically made by one of two methods—either allowing the pressed grape juice to sit on the grape skins for a brief period before fermentation, imparting both color and richer berry notes, or by blending the pressed white wine with still red wine. "This adds structure and a unique complexity, intensity and fruitiness to the wine," says de Belenet.


Vintage, as it appears on a champagne bottle, relates to the year in which the grapes in the wine were harvested. Vintage champagne comprises wine made from grapes harvested in the single year noted on the bottle, while non-vintage champagnes are made from wines blended from the harvests of multiple years to create the specific flavor profile the champagne house desires. While vintage champagnes, like vintage still wines, are highly prized for their ability to show off the unique character of a harvest, non-vintage champagne can encapsulate a house's signature style more completely and consistently (and often at a much lower price point)


While vintage and grape types may be immediately evident even to a champagne novice, dosage can seem more daunting to champagne neophites. Dosage relates to the amount of sugars added to the wine to enhance its flavor. "It’s more akin to salting your food than actually making it sweet,"de Belenet says. "The purpose is to achieve harmony and balance." Dosage designations are noted from the sweetest to the driest: doux, demi-sec, sec, extra-sec, brut, extra brut, and brut nature, also known as non-dosage. Of the types, demi-sec, a sweet dessert style, brut, and extra brut are the most common seen in the US, with brut champagne accounting for 73.9 percent of all champagne shipped to the U.S. in 2017, according to the Champagne Bureau US.


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