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Understanding Champagne Styles

International Champagne Day on 28 October is approaching – always the fourth Friday of October. You can be part of it by simply choosing the right Champagne to share with your family, friends or the one you love, and maybe sharing some photos on social media too.

Of course, we all know what Champagne is and appreciate its luxurious allure for celebrations and special events. However, do you know the range of styles it’s produced in?

Grape varieties

Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Meunier are the three key varieties used to make Champagne. The variety or blend of varieties used makes a big contribution to the style of the wine. Many Champagnes are a blend of these three grapes, but there are also several other styles to be aware of.

Blanc de Blancs is a Champagne made only from white grapes. In practice, this means Chardonnay, although several other rare varieties are permitted. These are generally wines with apple and lemon flavours.

Blanc de Noirs is a white Champagne made from 100% black grapes, meaning just Pinot Noir or Pinot Noir blended with Meunier. These Champagnes are generally slightly richer with strawberry and cherry flavours.

Rosé is a pink wine made by blending a white Champagne with a touch of red Pinot Noir or Meunier. Usually less than 10% of red wine is added, contributing juicy fruit flavours like raspberry and cherry. Incidentally, Champagne is the only region in Europe that is permitted to create rosé by blending red wine with white wine.

Vintage or Non-Vintage

Another important contributory factor to Champagne style is how it long spends on its lees in bottle following the second fermentation. This adds the fizz as well as the toasty, brioche and nut aromas everyone loves in great Champagne. And the longer you age the wine on the lees, the nuttier and toastier the aromas and flavours.

Vintage Champagnes generally have more of this nutty character as they are often aged for five to seven years before release. Their bubbles will also be finer, and they’ll have a creamier mouthfeel. Minimum ageing is three years. They are only made in the best years and only contain wine from that vintage.

Non-Vintage Champagnes are a blend of wines from different vintages, enabling a consistent house style whatever the vintage may be like that year. They are generally aged for a shorter time than their vintage counterparts (minimum 15 months) and are fruitier with less toasty aromas.

Prestige cuvées are the best, and most expensive, wine from a Champagne house and are considered the ultimate expressions of Champagne. They are generally wines from a single year and enjoy long lees ageing, hence lots of nutty aromas.

Sweetness levels

All Champagne is labelled with an indication of its sweetness, or dosage. Dosage ranges from Brut Nature – bone dry – to Doux – sweet. However, most Champagne is released as Brut, which contains a small amount of sugar to help make the wine more rounded and balanced.

So, whatever your budget or your taste, remember to crack open a bottle on International Champagne Day!

Here are our staff’s picks:

Champagne Deutz

As one of the oldest Grandes Marques, Champagne Deutz has been making their distinctive, carefully crafted Champagnes in Aÿ, Vallée de la Marne, since 1838. With Fabrice Rosset now at the helm along with Cellarmaster & Chief Winemaker Michel Davesne (soon to be succeeded by Caroline Latrive), Deutz continues its tradition of producing wines characterised by their finesse, elegance and complexity. The house owns vineyards in some of the finest sites of Champagne and works closely with its grape growers to ensure quality and authenticity. Their special cuvées ‘William Deutz’ and ‘Amour de Deutz’ are testaments to the house’s meticulous winemaking and patience.

Learn more about this fantastic house: