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As soon as you hear the cork pop, you know a special event is underway!
Champagne is a white sparkling wine that originates from the area of Champagne, France. In fact, other sparkling wines cannot call themselves champagne unless they are made in this specific French region (which is why you often see other brands referred to as “sparkling” or by their own local name, such as prosecco).
Many people new to wine mistakenly believe that champagne refers to only one type of wine. However, there are many types of champagne, just as there are many types of red wine. Just as you may prefer one type of red to another, it’s very likely that you’ll prefer one type of champagne to another.
To acquaint yourself with the vast world of champagne, it’s best to start with tasting, however, true champagne is not cheap, which is why people don’t like to go into buying it blindly. To help you feel a bit more comfortable when you’re standing in front of the racks of fine bottles of looking to buy the best champagne you can, here is a quick crash course in the top five types of champagne.
Blancs de Blancs
Just as the name suggests (if you know any French!), Blanc de Blancs champagne is made entirely of 100% Chardonnay grapes. These are white grapes that originate in the Chardonnay area of France. This specific type of champagne ages exceptionally well to create a mouth-coating, rich flavor.
Blanc de Noirs
The direct translation of this name means “white from blacks”. Of course, all champagne derives from white wine. However, Blanc de Noirs champagnes are made from the juices of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, or a combo of the two (which are red grapes), however, the champagne is still light colored. It is more common these days to see the Blanc de Noirs designation on American labels than French labels, and most are made in the Brut style.
When you’re browsing through the champagne aisle, you’ll notice that 95 percent of all French champagne is labeled as Brut. Brut is dry champagne, which means that the dosage (the wine and sugar combo that is added to the champagne after the final bottling to cut acidity) has very little sugar. Usually, this is under 12 grams of sugar per bottle. Brut champagnes cover a wide spectrum of quality and taste.
This very modern champagne will be familiar to wine drinkers who are used to drinking Rosé wine. This pink-hued champagne has a small amount of Pinot Noir wine added to the bottling process that produces softer champagne that is still dry, with minimal sugar.
When you see the Prestige Cuvée blend, you are seeing what is considered the top-shelf champagne the producer makes. Prestige Cuvée is a newer development in the champagne industry, with the first publicly available blend being offered in 1928 by Dom Pérignon by Moët & Chandon. Before this, Prestige Cuvée was usually reserved for high-society drinkers and Russian tsars.
Nowadays, Prestige Cuvée comes in many styles, but will typically produce the best mousse (the foam that results when you pour the champagne) of all champagnes.