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Outlined below is an A to Z on champagne terminology. Educative for novices. Informative for connoisseurs looking to add to their wealth of knowledge.
Acidity: One of the factors in wine aging and preservation. Acidity is dominant in young wines from cooler regions and lessens as grapes ripen.
Aging: A period of maturation for wines, allowing taste to evolve and occurring after the wine’s second fermentation.
Appellation controlee (AOC): Official designation indicating the French Government’s production standards have been met; can also be used to refer to a wine itself, as in “an appellation.”
Aromas: There are five separate categories used to describe champagne aromas: flowers, fruits, vegetables, dried fruit, and indulgent delicacies. These categories form the common language of Champagne connoisseurs.
Assemblage: The art of blending grape varietals, years, and grapes from different Champagne villages
Blanc de Blancs: Champagne produced exclusively from white Chardonnay grapes, renowned for its freshness and purity.
Blending: The art of combining wines from different years, climates, crus, and grape varieties into an artfully composed, harmonious whole. Blending is the height of Champagne craft and artistry.
Brut Champagne: Created in the late 19th century, it is the most popular form of dry champagne.
Chalk: The mineral comprising the majority of the subsoil in the Champagne region, chalk stores the trace elements required for growth of wine grape vines. It is highly porous and regulates temperature and moisture in the region’s cellars.
Chardonnay: The classic white wine grape, providing a youthful freshness and vivacity to Champagne.
Clos: A specially-segregated area of wine vineyards recognized by the CIVC. A Clos is sometimes physically divided from the surrounding vineyards by a wall or fence, etc.
Comite Interprofessionel du Vin de Champagne (CIVC): The Champagne governing body, operating from both a commercial and oenological perspective.
Cru: A single village of vineyards in Champagne, or the wines that come from a single village.
Cuvées: The wine produced after it has been blended.
Dègorgement: The process occurring to remove sediment from spent yeasts that settles after the second fermentation following aging and remuage.
Dosage: A small amount of wine added to each bottle of champagne after dègorgement. The additional few ounces are often sweetened and make up for the liquid volume lost by dègorgement.
Fermentation: The conversion of sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide bubbles by yeast. Fermentation produces Champagne’s characteristic bubbles.
Finishing: The process of corking and sealing the bottles.
Flute (Champagne): The ideal glass for serving Champagne. Its narrow shape allows bubbles to rise freely and condenses the effervescent aromas of sparkling wine.
Harvesting: The period of manual grape picking in Champagne. Usually occurs in the second half of September.
Label: The visible display of a champagne’s appellation on the bottle. Usually includes the House or name of the producer, dosage and blending.
Methode Champenoise: a natural winemaking process.
Muselet: The wire cage placed over a Champagne cork.
Must: Unfermented grape juice.
Negociant-manipulant: Abbreviated “N.M.” on Champagne labels, a company who buys grapes, must or still wines and produces Champagne on their own premises. Grapes purchased from other vineyards supplement those grown on the N.M.’s site.
Non-vintage: Non-vintage Champagne combines a blend of grapes from several vintages. The majority of champagnes are classified as non-vintage as this is the traditional style for creating the region’s sparkling wines.
Oenologue, or Oenologist: An expert in the field of winemaking.
Pinot Meunier: A black grape variety with white juice. It is often characterized by its suppleness and spiciness.
Pinot Noir: A black grape variety with white juice. It gives champagne an aroma of red fruit.
Premier Cru: Champagne vineyard awarded a quality rating of 90-99% by the CIVC.
Pressing: The technique used to extract juice from the grapes.
Prestige cuvée (Special cuvées): Champagne made according to specific criteria including the blend, single grape varieties and ageing period. A prestige cuvée is the highest quality champagne.
Prise de mousse: Produces champagne’s natural formation of bubbles (secondary fermentation).
Recoltant-cooperateur: Abbreviated “R.C.” on Champagne labels, an entity that delivers grapes to a wine cooperative which carries out the vinification process and sells the wine under the grower’s name.
Recoltant-manipulant: Abbreviated “R.M.” on Champagne labels, signifies a grower that vinifies their own harvest on their own premises.
Remuage (Riddling): The intensive process to remove the sediment that settles in the bottlenecks by turning the bottles incrementally each day.
Reserve Wines: Still wines that are often used to blend “non-vintage” wines. These wines are retained after their harvest years for particular characteristics that make them valuable in blending.
Rosé Champagne: A blend of wine that produces Champagne with a rosy tint. Rose Champagne is created by blending white and red wines.
Terroir: The climate and geographical characteristics that define the qualities of wines from a vineyard.
Tirage: Bottling of a cuvée prior to the second fermentation.
Vintage: Vintage champagne is produced from a single year’s harvest of wine grapes. Vintage champagne is only produced during a peak harvest year when conditions produce ideal wines of an exemplary character.
Yield: The amount of grapes harvested per hectare. The CIVC sets the yield for each harvest based on the quality of the grapes and market demands.