In essence, Champagne is a sparkling wine from the Champagne region of France, and it is one of the most famous wines worldwide. Like wine, Champagne is also classified into different types and categories. With its complex flavors and unique effervescent taste, it is understandable that there is more than one variety.
Each bottle can belong in more than one category: dryness or sweetness, regional classification, and more. Here, we will introduce you to some types of Champagne to better understand the iconic beverage and figure out which one you should try next.
According to Dryness / Sweetness
1. Brut Nature
When Champagne is at its driest, with 0-3 grams of residual sugar per liter, it is known as Brut Nature. They are also known as non-dosé or Brut Zero. You can usually find the word "Brut" on Champagne labels. This is the usual sweetness level of Champagne, and it is slightly sweeter than Brut Nature.
After the sparkling wine passes through various stages of aging and blending, it is finally bottled to preserve its freshness. However, most Champagnes get a dosage, which is a mix of liqueur d'expedition and sugar syrup, before bottling.
This adds more sweetness and flavor to the sparkling wine for a more palatable tasting experience. However, a small fraction of Champagnes are not given a dosage, and that's what we call Brut Nature wines. They are left unaltered in their natural state.
With their naturally higher acidity and lower sugar content in comparison to other types of Champagne, they're just what you need if you're looking for a dry and refreshing sip. The first Brut Nature Champagnes were pioneering efforts by Perrier-Jouët, which are thought to have been inspired by British tastes.
2. Extra Brut
Extra Brut Champagnes are becoming the preferred choice of many people to cut down on sugar intake. This trend began with health-conscious consumers who wanted a French sparkling wine without added sugars. Extra Brut is gaining popularity because of this reason and also because of how it tastes.
This type of Champagne only contains 0-6 grams of sugar per liter. The Asian continent has a history of enjoying low-dosage wines, like Extra Brut sparkling wines. These are especially popular in Japan, South Korea, and China.
The difference between Extra Brut and other types of Champagne is barely noticeable. The flavor expression will be slightly lower in sweetness. This is a good thing for some who believe that too much sweetness can overpower natural flavors.
Dry Champagne is often referred to as Brut, which makes sense given that "Brut" is a French word that means "dry,” "raw,” or "unrefined." Brut also pertains to a style used in making the Champagne, and it doesn't necessarily mean a particular variety.
The low-sugar and delicious Champagne Brut is an excellent choice if you want to enjoy sparkling wine without worrying about too much sugar. The average bottle of a Champagne Brut contains between 0-12 grams of total sugar per liter, making it perfect as an occasional treat filled with exciting flavors and one of the best wines for a keto diet.
There is no better way to end up in gastronomic heaven than pairing Champagne Brut with your favorite dishes. It can give you an experience like no other! The sharpness of the sparkling wine cuts through fats while adding that much-needed acidity, making every mouthful more delicious.
Don’t forget about the chilling time if you want to enjoy Champagne Brut at its best temperature! The ideal way is by leaving it in your best wine fridge for three hours before serving. If that's not possible or practical, prepare an ice bucket and fill it with water. Scoop some ice cubes from your ice maker and fill up your bucket to create an appropriate cold environment for sparkling wine.
4. Extra Dry / Sec
It may be quite misleading, but the words "extra" and "dry" do not apply to this Champagne, as it is actually quite sweeter than other dry varieties. Extra dry Champagnes sit roughly in the middle of the sweetness scale.
It's a common misconception that extra dry Champagne is drier than Brut, but in reality, it contains more sugar! It has about 12-17 grams per liter on average. However, it's not sweeter than dry, demi-sec, and doux. When drinking extra dry Champagne, you can detect some fruity and slightly sweet notes that work great as an aperitif.
5. Dry / Sec
Dry or sec is what you call a bottle of Champagne that has between 17 and 32 grams per liter of residual sugar. This type of Champagne is often described as having moderate or medium sweetness.
The sweetness is noticeable when you drink this sparkling wine rather than just being a hint, so don't be confused with the term "dry.” The final sweetness of a Sec Champagne will depend on the dosage.
Despite having more residual sugar than the other dry Champagnes, you can still enjoy this sparkling wine as it is balanced with the right amount of acidity.
Demi-sec Champagne has about 32 - 50 grams per liter of residual sugar, and it literally translates to "semi-dry." It may have the word "dry" in its name, but ironically, it is the second sweetest kind of Champagne.
This type of Champagne is wonderfully fizzy and sweet but still refreshing. It is usually packed with intense fruit flavors that will be perfect as an aperitif, dessert wine, or a base for Mimosas. Its sweetness can also be a fantastic pairing to pasta dishes.
To this day, the sweetest of all Champagnes is still considered to be Doux Champagne. It usually contains over 50 grams of sugar per liter. It could practically pass as a dessert wine! Some even compare it to having a similar or perhaps higher level of sweetness as a can of soda.
Doux Champagnes were the most popular types of Champagne during the 18th and 19th centuries. But with the current popularity of dry Champagnes soaring, it’s no wonder that Doux Champagnes are hard to find these days, despite being easy to make.
According to Producers
The Champagne industry is a lavish one, with many large houses. A Maison is referred to a large Champagne house, such as Dom Perignon, Moët & Chandon, Pommery, and Veuve Clicquot.
The Comité de Champagne is the governing body of the Champagne industry, and it says that there are 360 different Maisons. Moreover, Maisons and other large Champagne houses can be labeled as either of the following:
NM (Négociant Manipulant)
In the world of wine, a "Négociant Manipulant" manipulates or buys grapes from other growers to create their product.
The label “NM” indicates that all or some of this producer's fruit came through a third party and must be identified with an "insignia" substantiating where it originated for consumers to know what kind of sparkling wine they're drinking.
MA (Marque d'Acheteur)
Some Champagne brands are registered as a Marque d'Acheteur, or " Buyer's Own Brand," allowing them to market the Champagne under their own name. Usually, resellers, wine merchants, restaurateurs, and distribution chains fall under this category.
MA Champagnes can be sourced from Négociant Manipulant (NM), Récoltant Manipulants (RM), or Coopérative de Manipulation (CM). In some bottles, you can see "Elaborated by NM-XXXX" somewhere, indicating the sparkling wine’s origin.
ND (Négociant Distributeur)
Négociant Distributeur is a term that refers to buyers who label Champagnes on their establishments and distribute them.
They are not necessarily winemakers themselves but instead purchase the rights from other producers so they can sell it under their own name or Champagne brand. This makes them responsible for its quality control in some way.
In Champagne, France, cooperative wineries play an essential role. It's a tried and true method for wine-producing communities that cannot afford the cost of vinification or grapes themselves to make their award-winning wines. So, they ask for help from others who have access!
One prominent example of a cooperative is Nicolas Feuillatte, which is also the biggest in the Champagne region of France. The cooperatives produce products under the label CM.
CM (Coopérative de Manipulation)
Coopérative de Manipulation Cooperatives are an amazing way for individuals with diverse vineyards to come together and share their products.
They can also help the grower become more involved in winemaking by allowing them some say-so, depending on how much involvement there is at each cooperative!
A Vigneron is a family or person who specializes in growing grapes and producing wine independently. Vignerons are those who take pride in understanding every step of their vineyard, from planting to harvesting.
They know how each operation impacts the final product and are often experts on all things wine-related! They can be classified into three:
RM (Récoltant Manipulants)
The Récoltant Manipulants are a group of people who find enjoyment in farming and winemaking. These types focus on using at least 95% of the fruit from their own property, which is considered classic by Champagne growers and Champagne producers in France.
SR (Société de Récoltants)
Société de Récoltants is a group of farmers with one goal: to create and market top-notch produce. They do this by sharing resources, which is how they can maintain quality standards over time as well!
RC (Récoltant Coopérateur)
A Récoltant Coopérateur is an exciting producer who prefers to work with other growers rather than buy their grapes. They market their own brand of Champagne or sparkling wine produced at the cooperative facility.
This partnership will also show off the unity between vineyard workers and winemakers in France.
According to Year
Of the different types of Champagne, vintage is considered to be one with a purer taste and among the most expensive Champagnes. They are made from grapes in a single harvest of the same year, which are, in most cases, Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, or Chardonnay grapes.
In the past, vintage Champagnes were few and far between due to unpredictable weather conditions. But, with improved technology that allows for better production efficiency, this has changed!
The number of vintages produced by the millennium is at an all-time high because people can predict better what's going on outside the vineyards with ever more precision than before.
Vintage Champagne has a minimum aging requirement of three years. In contrast, non-vintage Champagnes are aged for at least 15 months, but some houses can take as long as three years before release to achieve higher quality standards and necessary regulations.
As the name suggests, Non-Vintage Champagne is made from a blend of different vintages rather than just one, and they make up 85 to 90% of all the production. This makes them less expensive than vintage Champagnes, leading to their increasing popularity in recent years.
To ensure that the quality of their sparkling wine is not compromised, all Champagne producers must dedicate at least 20% of their production for future non-vintage Champagne.
Non-vintage Champagne is considered the historical significance of the "classic" type of Champagne. It has been around for centuries and is still being produced today. It strives to utilize various grapes sourced from different areas and years all over France to create amazing blends.
The goal of winemakers in doing so is to provide customers with complexity as well as consistency year after year, depending on which variety was used during each harvest season.
Every bottle of Millésime Champagne is produced with grapes from a specific and good year. The term "Millesime" means "great vintage,” and it must be at least 85% made up by wines harvested in that one specific harvest.
They are also required to be aged in casks for at least three years. In most cases, you will also find its production date engraved onto your bottle for easy reference!
According to Grape Varieties / Style
14. Prestige Cuvée
When you're looking for something that's going to take your taste buds on an unforgettable ride, there is nothing better than a Prestige Cuvee. These specialty wines offer complexity and intensity unmatched by other types of Champagne.
A prestige cuvée can be defined as "the Champagne makers' flagship wines." Some would describe it as a premium vintage Champagne.
They are made from a prestigious blend of grapes from the best vineyards that ultimately offer an unforgettable drinking experience that can be enjoyed during special occasions.
The longer a wine spends in oak, the more complex it can become. Champagne makers often use fermentation from these barrels or vats for a prestige Cuvee. The flavor can vary drastically depending on a winemaker's signature touch on the final product.
Because of this process, they usually have a better quality than those that don't go through such an aging tradition - even though it is more expensive to do so! These wines are so rare because they're crafted in such a specific and delicate way.
15. Blanc de Blancs
A Blanc de Blancs Champagne is produced from white grapes only. The name, which translates to "white of whites," comes from its typically clear color, with no red tint whatsoever. Moreover, Blanc de Blancs Champagne is usually made from 100% Chardonnay grapes.
Chardonnay is snappy with the acidity to keep things interesting. It's racy and minerally in its youth, but as it ages gracefully, it forges into something more velvety on your palate with creamy notes of nuts or brioche that will peek through!
One of the most striking differences between Blanc de Blancs Champagnes comes from how the producers make them. In some cases, a producer will follow a unique and specific signature style.
16. Blanc de Noirs
The French refer to "Blanc de Noirs" as a white wine from black grapes. It's a style with its roots in France, where red grape varieties such as Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier were traditionally used for Champagne production.
Red grapes can create white wines because their flesh doesn't contain any pigments that would change the color of juice. The red pigment extracted from red grapes, called anthocyanins, are found on the skins.
Finally, the light raw is fermented to produce its signature white wine. A Champagne Blanc de Noirs has a clear pale color with yellow-gold hints that only intensify as it ages.
White wines made from white and red grapes often have unique fruit aromas and delicate freshness with just enough acidity to keep things exciting but not too much that it becomes overpowering or bitter tasting.
Blanc de Noirs is a perfect choice for anyone who wants to enjoy the best of both wine worlds in one Champagne glass. With their full flavor and fruity notes, they'll make any meal taste better than ever!
17. Rosé Champagne
Rosé Champagne is known for its slightly pink color, ranging from deep red to salmon. This is why other people call them pink Champagne. This unique tint makes it different from any other type of wine or alcohol!
The Champagne wine region in France is known for producing red wines added to Champagne rosé and giving them their pink color. The process of making this lightly pigmented drink starts with Pinot Noir and Meunier grapes.
Rosé Champagnes are more intense in flavor than their usual yellow or golden counterparts because of the punchy red wine. Winemakers typically add 10-15% of still red wines into the final sparkling rosé production, giving it extra fruit flavors, particularly berries!
According to Regional Classification
18. Grand Cru
In Champagne, there is a village-based classification system for wines, as well as a rating scale. 17 villages were authorized to use "Grand Cru," which are considered among France's finest wines. Some of the villages include Cramant, Ambonnay, Verzy, Chouilly, Bouzy, etc.
The best way to understand a wine's quality is through its label. When the word “Grand Cru" appears on a French red label, for example, then chances are you're drinking from one of the best French wines - but don't let that mean all else falls by the wayside!
The Grand Cru classification of wines is an indication that these vineyards have been judged to produce high-quality wines. It scores 100% on a 0-100 scale of villages.
Moreover, the grand cru classification of Appellation d'origine contrôlée (AOC) wines from Burgundy or Alsace refers to the highest level for quality and reputation.
19. Premier Cru
The French language has many different terms for describing the quality of wines, vineyards, or wineries. One of the terms is "premier cru,” which can be translated to "first growth" in English. There are about 43 wine-producing villages that are considered as "premier cru."
This classification has a 90-99% rating on a 0-100% scale. In addition, the villages cover 7500 hectares or 22% of the total land dedicated to producing Champagne. Premier Cru wines pack quite an alcoholic punch but are still filled with flavor!
The second growth is known as Deuxieme Cru, the third growth is Troisieme Cru, the fourth is Quatrieme Cru, and the last is Cinquieme Cru.
20. Autre Cru
Autre Crus means "other crus,” which includes vineyards that are not a part of the Grand and Premier Cru. However, some Autre Cru vineyards can produce better fruits than others!
Autre Cru currently has 264 villages and has a score that averages about 80-89% on the 0-100% scale. Even if this classification is at the bottom, when you drink a bottle of sparkling wine with "Autre Cru" on it, you are still guaranteed to have a wonderful drinking experience.
Champagne may not differ so much in appearance, but there are many different types out there just waiting to be tried. So next time you're planning a celebration, consider what kind of Champagne you're going to serve.
You may want to buy one of a particular sweetness or from a specific region. It'll also be fun to have a taste test on the different types, so you'll expand your Champagne knowledge and palate.
Which Champagne type intrigued you the most? Feel free to share your thoughts with us in the comments below.