DO YOU SPEAK CHAMPAGNE ?
Disgorgement, malolactic, Blanc de Blancs,… What is that language?
Champagne is a very specific wine. It has its own making process called Méthode Champenoise but is has also its own universe: sensations, emotions, flavors, images and of course its own vocabulary. Indeed, in order to describe the diversity of wines, there is a distinct vocabulary for champagne. This article group together all the terms you should know to master the subtleties of the wine that sparkles.
AOC — The appellation d’origine contrôlée
Meaning “the controlled designation of origin”. It is a certification granted in France to geographical indications for wines but also spirits, meat, cheeses, butters, honey,… all kind of agricultural products. It is a legal recognition to a certain know-how – product manufactured in a traditional method with ingredients from a geographical area called also terroir in France. In Champagne, the AOC is tightly regulated: a delimited vineyard area, only 7 grape varieties authorized and new plantings allowed for only 3 of them – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier -, specific method of pruning, a maximum permitted yields per hectare and maximum permitted press yield…
There are seven grape varieties grown in the Champagne region, Arbane is one of the four old varieties. Except for the existing vines, AOC regulations do not allow new plantings of old varieties. Some wineries create champagnes from this variety, blended or not, with the”classic” varieties – Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier – or with the other old varieties : Pinot Gris – also called Fromenteau – Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc. Arbane is very soft and light with a refreshing and subtle peppery uplift in the finish. This white grape is much more delicate than chardonnay.
Assemblage — The blend
Used to call champagnes that are a blend of different grapes or different base wines. This expression is also used for Rosé d’Assemblage made from champagne blended with a small % of red wine from the champagne area.
A champagne or wine bottle of 12-liters (equal to 16 standard bottles of champagne).
Base Wine — A still wine, or vin clair
Component in the blending of champagne. A still wine, or vin clair, ended its alcoholic fermentation and ready to be assembled with other wines before being bottled. Once in the bottle, it will restart again its fermentation for the “prise de mousse“, name of the secondary fermentation.
Similar to organic viticulture, Biodynamic is a philosophy of cultivating grapevines using organic methods and an ecological approach developing a diversified and balanced ecosystem that generates health and fertility without outside influences – only homeopathic preparations and tisanes are used to improve the quality of the ecosystem. Adding to that, Biodynamic philosophy alignes vineyard and cellar work with lunar and cosmic calendars in order to bring the culture into harmony with the natural world. The organization for biodynamic certification in France is Demeter. The first wine producer in Champagne to use Biodynamic viticulture was Champagne Fleury in Courteron.
Blanc de Blancs
Made exclusively from white grapes with white juice, which means a champagne made from 100% Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, Arbanne or Petit Meslier – the most common one being the 100% Chardonnay.
Blanc de Noirs
Made exclusively from black grapes with white juice, which means a champagne made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier. It can be 100% of Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier or a blend of the varieties.
The addition of the shipping liqueur called “dosage” consists of adding a mixture of reserve wine and very pure cane sugar. The quantity of residual sugar in the bottled wine determines the type of champagne. Brut in champagne means a dosage between 0 and 12 grams per liter. It is the most common style of champagne. A champagne containing less than 6g per liter is also called Extra-Brut. Brut is also used to refer to a blended champagne, it is then called a Brut d’assemblage.
Brut Nature — Non-dosé, Brut Zéro or Zéro dosage
A champagne bottled without any dosage, which means no added sugar.
Brut Sans Année (BSA) — Non-vintage brut
A term commonly used in France and in the wine industry. It designate the entry-level, non-vintage wine of a champagne House.
Capsule — Crown Cap
Used to seal a bottle, this metal capsule is replaced with a cork during the disgorgement after the second fermentation and aging.
Capsule — Metal Cap
Not to be confused with the capsule used to seal the bottle for the aging, the capsule – metal cap – also called plaque de muselet is a metal disc affixed to the top of the cork with the muselet. Because some of the producers personalized them with a unique design, there are a lot of capsule collectors called placomusophiles.
- The Champagne, the region, is a strictly defined area of France. It includes 634 villages but only 318 of them have the right to produce champagne. Those villages are :
- from five different départements – the Aisne, Aube, Haute-Marne, Marne and Seine-et-Marne,
- divided into four areas with their own geographical identity – The Montagne de Reims, the Marne Valley, the Côte des Blancs and the Côte des Bar,
- and classified in different crus – Autre Cru, Grand Cru and Premier Cru.
- Champagne, the wine, is a sparkling wine that can only come from Champagne, the region – the use of the word champagne is strictly forbidden for other wines in the countries who have agreed to signed the arrangement with the E.U and the Comité Champagne. However, some countries, including the United States, do not recognize the AOC, which explains some Sparkling wine names available on the market like Californian Champagne.
In order to distinguish between the region and the wine, the current practice is to use a capital C for the region and a small c for the wine.
The process of adding sugar to grape must in order to provide more sugar for the yeast in order to stimulate the fermentation and raise the degree of potential alcohol.
White grape with white juice, Chardonnay is one of three major grape varieties planted in the region. Champagne exclusively made with Chardonnay are called Blanc de Blancs. Chardonnay is very crisp and light, it brings elegance and finesse to Champagne wines with characteristic aromas of flowers, citrus and minerals notes. It is a perfect grape for long aging wines, especially if the malolactic fermentation is not realized. In blends, Chardonnay is used to balance the strength, the richness of Pinot noir and the generosity of Pinot Meunier.
In the Champagne region, Chardonnay represents 30% of plantings and is the dominant grape of the Côte des Blancs.
Chef de Cave —The cellarmaster,
Also called a winemaker, the cellarmaster is in charge of the winemaking: he decides of the blends and the dosage that will determine the style of the champagne. Either employee or owner, he is in charge of watching over the maturity of grapes in order to decide of the perfect time for the harvest (during the period fixed by the CIVC), monitoring the pressing, the settling of juice and the fermentation, filtering the wine and tasting the quality of wines. He also keeps an eye on the storage and the maturation in order to make sure that the quality is maintained once the wine is bottled.
Although, today the walls may or may not be present, historically, Clos is a term used for a vineyard closed by walls that horses can’t pass through. Those walls were built to protect the vines from external threats and it improved the microclimate – protection from the wind and an optimal maturation of the grapes. In order to be classified as Clos, a vineyard has to be on the parcel records to obtain the agreement for the appellation from the INAO – National Institute for Label of Origin.
Coeur de Cuvée
For a 4,000 kilogram press, the cuvée refers to the first 2,050 liters only. As for the coeur de cuvée – literally “the heart of the first pressing” – it is the middle of this pressing and the juice portion of the highest quality.
Before bottling, the base wine is deliberated chilling in order to remove insoluble matter suspended in the wine : it’s called the cold-stabilization. In Champagne some of the producers avoid this manipulation considering it unnecessary in the wine making process.
Comité Champagne — Comité Interprofessionnel du vin de Champagne (CIVC)
Established in 1941, the CIVC is the organisation controlling the production, distribution and promotion of the wines with the champagne label.
They determine the harvest period and they are in charge of the regulation of the size of the harvest. This regulation limits the production of wines called champagne in order to maintain market prices. A part of the mission of the CIVC is to protect the champagne appellation, in France and Internationally.
Autonomous association of people, a cooperative is engaged in the production or distribution of goods – or services. Managed by its members, a cooperative is operated for a mutual benefit.
In Champagne, cooperatives play an essential role : it makes possible for wine producers that cannot afford the production material to vinify their grapes. The wines produced are under the cooperative brand marked as CM – Coopérative-Manipulant – or under the wine producer label marked as RC – Récoltant-Manipulant. Cooperatives sell also wines to Négociants as grape must, still wines or bottled champagne.
Used to close a bottle, it provides a tight seal retaining the carbon dioxide in the champagne, keeping the wine bubbly and allowing oxygen to interact with wine for proper aging. They are highly compressed during the disgorgement in order to be inserted into the bottle.
Did you know that if you put a champagne cork in the microwave around 30 seconds, the cork will regain its original shape ?!
Corked, Corky, Cork Taint — Goût de bouchon
A wine defect characterized by undesirable smells or tastes. The chief cause of this cork taint is the presence of a molecule called TCA – 2,4,6-trichloroanisole. TCA has a characteristic smell similar to a moldy newspaper or damp basement. Normally considered as responsible, the cork is not the only source of the Goût de bouchon, there are different factors that can also be responsible for the taint like wooden barrels, storage conditions or the transport.
Note that if you buy a bottle of wine that happens to be corked, you should :
- change your glasses before serving any other wine,
- keep the cork and write down the serial number to inform the wine producer: the serial number will give them the opportunity to check if any other wines are corked and the winemaker will be able inform the cork-producer if there is a problem detected
- keep the bottle : sometimes the wine producer can ask you to send him back – if it is possible – in order to run some tests and establish where the taint comes from.
In the wine industry, Cuvée usually refers to high quality wines called “reserved wine”. In Champagne cuvée has a specific meaning : for a 4,000 kilogram press, the cuvée refers to the first 2,050 liters only.
Note that the following 500 litres of the press are known as the taille (tail).
A 500 to 600 liters wooden barrel usually made of oak. It is bigger than the barriques, 205-225 liters in size, and smaller than the foudres that contain dozens hectoliters and sometimes up to several hundred. Some Champagne producers use Demi-muid for its good ratio of wine to wood.
Demi-Sec in champagne means a dosage between 32 and 50 g per liter. It is a relatively sweet champagne.
Disgorging — Dégorgement
Traditionally a manual process, disgorging consists in removing the lees – yeast sediments – after the fermentation, the aging in bottle and the riddling. Once the lees are located in the neck of the bottle through riddling, the winemaker freezes the neck to trap the sediments into the ice and then ejects the plug of ice with the pressure inside the bottle by removing the capsule and without losing much of liquid. It is Madame Clicquot that invented this process in 1816, before that the champagne was cloudy. Today, producers are still using the manual process – called dégorgement à la volée – on small amount of bottles and some of them continue not using the freezing technique.
It consists of adding either :
- a shipping liqueur – liqueur d’expédition : a solution of reserve wine and cane or beet sugar,
- or MCR – Moût concentré et rectifié : a concentrated and rectified grape must.
The dosage balances the acidity of the wine and determines the category of champagne – Brut Nature, Extra Brut, Brut, …). It plays an important role in the aging process of the wine and it is also a way to mask wine defects by adding sugar.
Doux in champagne means a dosage over 50 g per liter. It is the sweetest type of champagne.
Note that even if it is a very rare style today, it used to be the most common style of champagne early in the history of champagne (18th, 19th centuries). For curious champagne lovers who would like to taste Doux style, try the cuvée La Libertine from champagne Doyard in Vertus.
Extra-Brut in champagne means a dosage between 0 g and 6g per liter. However, it is possible to simply use Brut to label an Extra-Brut champagne if the producer prefer not to highlight the low dosage. If a champagne contains between 0 and 3g per liter it is also called Brut Nature, Zéro dosage or Non Dosé.
Extra Sec — Extra Dry
Extra Sec in champagne means a dosage between 12 g and 17g per liter. Today, it is more common to find Brut Nature, Extra-Brut, Brut or Demi-sec champagnes and the trend tends to be wines with less and less sugar, in order to highlight the quality and the purity of the champagne.
There are two fermentations in the champagne process : the first one is the conversion of sugar into alcohol and creates the Vin clair – still wine ; the second one is the conversion of this still wine into a sparkling wine by adding a small quantity of yeast and sugar – liqueur de tirage – once the wine is bottled.
The suspended particles in the wine needs to be removed : it is the filtration. This process is done before bottling the wines but some of the producer prefer not to do the filtration in order to keep all the character of the wine.
A very large wooden barrel usually made from oak. It contains dozens hectoliters and sometimes up to several hundred. The most famous one is the foudre of the champagne House Mercier, built to contain 1.600 hectoliters, i.e 200.000 bottles and weighing 20.000 kg. Eugene Mercier, founder of the champagne House Mercier, decided in 1889 to promote his brand by exposing this art piece at the International exhibition in Paris.
The champagne region is classified in different crus – Autre Cru, Grand Cru and Premier Cru. This classification used to be to determined the price of the grapes and characterizes the quality of the microclimate and the soil of a particular site or village. Grand Cru is the highest level of the cru classification, in front of Premier Cru and Autres Crus. There are 17 villages classified as Grand Cru in Champagne : Ambonnay, Avize, Aÿ, Beaumont-sur-Vesle, Bouzy, Chouilly, Cramant, Louvois, Mailly-Champagne, Le Mesnil-sur-Oger, Oger, Oiry, Puisieulx, Sillery, Tours-sur-Marne, Verzenay and Verzy. Villages that have the benefit to be classified as Grand Cru for the quality of their terroir can label their wine as Grand Cru as long as the grapes are 100% from a vineyards in Grand Cru villages.
Champagne’s most famous houses, the term Grande Marque is used for the most important Négociant-Manipulant and members of the Syndicat des Grandes Marques. Among them : Moët & Chandon, Mumm, Krug, Lanson, Taittinger, Veuve Clicquot, Dom Pérignon, Bollinger…
Opposed to champagne from a Négociant, Grower champagne is produced from the vines to the bottle by one producer.
A technique used in wine tasting. It consists in drawing in some air while tasting a wine in a sort of reverse whistle, so that you can get the full flavour of the wine. It creates small bubbles that burst and highlight the aromatic notes.
This piece of equipment is used for the riddling, a complex process to collect the yeast sediments that are in the bottle. This process consists in twisting the bottle, shaking it slightly and moving it progressively to the vertical in order to place the sediments in the neck pointing down ready to be ejected during the disgorging. Used by the majority of the champagne producers, some of them still riddle bottles by hand on special racks called pupitres.
A champagne or wine bottle of 37.5-centiliters (equal to 1/2 standard bottle of champagne).
A champagne or wine bottle of 3-liters (equal to 4 standard bottles of champagne). Legally, from the half-bottle (37,5cl) to the Jerobaom, the rules of the Champagne appellation forbid the transfer of the champagne from one bottle to another – transvasage – which means that all wines must be sold in the bottle in which they underwent the second fermentation. Transvasage is allowed for larger capacity bottles and very small bottles. Today, the majority of the champagne producers uses this method for larger size.
Lees Aging — Sur Lie
Sediments from the fermentation, the lees come from the yeasts that have multiplied in the bottle and formed a deposit. In the cellars and at a constant temperature of 54°F (12°C), the wines start a long maturation : the maturation on lees, or lees aging. Composed of two simultaneous and continuous process – the oxidation of the wine via the not perfectly airtight stopper and the yeast autolysis, the consumption of the sugar by the yeasts -; it is this lees aging that develops the tertiary aromas. Legally, the minimum aging period for champagne is 15 months in the bottle with 12 months of lees aging for non-vintage champagne and 3 years for vintage – a much longer period than for any other sparkling wines (90 days according to the European wine regulation). In practice, the maturation for champagne wines is even longer : 2-3 years for non-vintage and 4 to 10 years for vintages.
A parcel of vines bearing a traditional name. Usually the name refers to some characteristic of the place, an historical event or an anecdote of the place. The number of lieux-dits are estimated over 84,000 in Champagne. In some cases, the names of the lieux-dits appears on the champagne label and if a wine is made of only one lieu-dit, the champagne is called mono-parcellaire.
Shipping liqueur – liqueur d’expédition – is a solution of reserve wine and cane, or beet sugar, used after the disgorgement for the dosage. The other possible solution is a dosage with the MCR – Moût concentré et rectifié – a concentrated and rectified grape must.
Liqueur de Tirage
The liqueur de tirage is added at bottling in order to induce the second fermentation (not to be confused with the liqueur d’expédition added after the disgorgement). A solution of still champagne wine, yeast and sugar causing the prise de mousse and producing pressure: 6 bars inside the bottle for the standard value (18g of sugar). The yeast used in the liqueur de tirage is the Saccharomyces cerevisiae on a amount regulated by the European Commission which is 0.3 gram per bottle.
Between conventional chemically dependent viticulture and organic wine production, Lutte raisonnée is a winegrowing method seeking to decrease the use of inputs – herbicides and pesticides like phytosanitary products – by using them to treat the vines in times of critical need. However, there is no rules or certification standard to control this method of viticulture and it leads to different interpretations from an production site to an other. Only one group, called Ampelos, has defined guidelines for Lutte raisonnée, outlining what can be or can’t be done with that method.
A champagne or wine bottle of 1.5-liter (equal to 2 standard bottles of champagne). This size of bottle is the ideal format for aging champagne : it provides an harmonious development of the aromas and offers a great complexity to the wine. A benefit partly due to the perfect ratio of air exchange between the inside and the outside of the bottle.
Malolactic fermentation — Malolactic conversion or MLF
A winemaking process performed to convert the malic acidity, naturally present in the grape juice, into the lactic acidity. Activated just after the first fermentation and sometimes happening naturally during it, the malolactic fermentation tends to create a softer acidity in the wine with a rounder, fuller mouthfeel. For Chardonnay champagne, for example, it can impart hazelnut and dried fruit notes as well as freshly baked bread and butter aromas. Some winemakers prevent malolactic conversion in order to maintain a more tart or acidic profile in the finished wine and to ensure freshness during the aging of the wine.
Melchizedec — Midas
A champagne or wine bottle of 30-liters (equal to 40 standard bottles of champagne).
More commonly named the traditional method and a term used to distinguish the champagne making process from the other sparkling wines, the Méthode Champenoise is the process to produce Champagne including a primary fermentation in tank or oak, the blending – assemblage – and a second fermentation in the bottle, the aging on lees, the riddling, the disgorging and the dosage. This method is subjected to a certain number of regulations : defined date of harvest that must be done by hand, a minimum aging – 15 months for a non-vintage, 3 years for a vintage -, a regulated amount of yeast, … (see the article on the Méthode Champenoise)
The common name for the making process for champagne and other sparkling wines including a second fermentation after the bottling. Unlike the term Méthode Champenoise, this term can be used for other sparkling wines made from the same process than champagnes.
A champagne or wine bottle of 6-liters (equal to 8 standard bottles of champagne).
A type of champagne made from a restricted area : from a single village – a monocru champagne – or from a single parcelle – a monoparcelle champagne also called monoparcellaire in french.
Millésime — Vintage
A vintage champagne is made from a single year : grapes grown and harvested in a single specified year. Historically, a vintages were made during years with exceptional quality of grapes. Today, it is more common to find producers making a vintage for every harvest, a way for connoisseurs to taste the specificities of each year.
The opposite of a vintage wine is a nonvintage champagne.
A champagne made with grapes from only one cru i.e a single village.
Called in french champagne monoparcellaire, mono-parcelle are wines made exclusively from a single vineyard i.e only one parcelle.
Muselet — Champagne wire or wirehood
The wire cage fitting over and holding the champagne cork to prevent it from emerging under the pressure inside the bottle.
A champagne or wine bottle of 15-liters (equal to 20 standard bottles of champagne).
A producer or company who produce champagne from grapes, grape must or wine purchased from other growers in Champagne. The bottles produced are sold under their own label. A Négociant can own his own vines and vinify himself his champagne – he is then call Négociant-manipulant (NM) – or buy finished bottles to label them – he is called a Négociant-distributeur (ND). All the big Houses of champagne belong to the Négociant category.
Non-Dosé — Brut Nature, Brut Zéro or Zéro dosage
A champagne bottled without any dosage, which means no added sugar.
Non-Vintage Champagne (NV)
A champagne with a blend from the produce of multiples years. A winemakers practice used to have a consistent style of wine over the years. However, there are different levels of quality for non-vintage champagnes produced with an higher selection in the blend, recognizable by the name used on the label : Brut tradition, Brut Sélection, Brut Prestige...
Viticulture method excluding the use of artificial chemical inputs : fertilizers, pesticides, fungicides and herbicides. Organic viticulture is a real challenge in Champagne due to the wet weather and the north location of the region favorable for grape diseases like mildew. Today, organic viticulture is expanding in Champagne and more and more growers are certified with the Ecocert label, the AB label or Demeter label.
A storing process for reserve wines consisting in blending them together in a single cuvée, usually stored in only one large tank or barrel constantly replenished after each harvest with the wine of the year. The producer removes only what he needs for the production. Similar to the Solera, this process creates increasingly complex wines.
There are seven grape varieties grown in the Champagne region, Petit Meslier is one of the four old varieties. Except for the existing vines, AOC regulations do not allow new plantings of old varieties. Some wineries create champagne from this variety, blended or not, with the”classic” varieties or with the other old varieties. Petit Meslier is valued in Champagne for its ability to retain acidity even in vintages, it also brings apple notes into the wines.
Phylloxera — Phylloxera vastatrix
Originally coming from eastern north America, Phylloxera is a worldwide grapevine pest. Almost microscopic, it feeds on the roots and leaves of the vines destroying the root system and depriving the vine of its ability to feed itself. It is in 1890 that Phylloxera arrived in Champagne, causing the devastation of the vineyards.
Pinot Blanc is one of the four old grape varieties grown in the Champagne region. Except for the existing vines, AOC regulations do not allow new plantings of old varieties. Some wineries create champagne from this variety, blended or not, with the”classic” varieties or with the other old varieties. Pinot Blanc brings fruity aromas – apple, citrus fruit notes – and floral characteristics with a nice minerality.
Pinot Gris — Fromenteau
Pinot Gris is one of the four old grape varieties grown in the Champagne region. Except for the existing vines, AOC regulations do not allow new plantings of old varieties. Some wineries create champagne from this variety, blended or not, with the”classic” varieties or with the other old varieties. Wine made with Pinot Gris develop ripe tropical fruit notes.
Black grape with white juice, Pinot Meunier is one of three major grape varieties planted in the region. Champagne exclusively made with Pinot Meunier are called Blanc de Noirs. Pinot Meunier adds fruitiness and spice to Champagne wines. Representing 32% of planting in the Champagne region, Pinot Meunier is gaining recognition only recently for its richness. In blends, Pinot Meunier is used to add roundness.
Black grape with white juice, Pinot Meunier is one of three major grape varieties planted in the region. Champagne exclusively made with Pinot Noir are called Blanc de Noirs. Pinot Noir grapes add power and structure to Champagne wines. Representing 38% of planting in the Champagne region, Pinot Noir is predominant in the Montagne de Reims and the Côte des Bar. In blends, Pinot Meunier is used to add body to the blend, developing red berries aroma.
A champagne or wine bottle of 0.5-liter (equal to 2/3 standard bottle of champagne).
Plaque de muselet — Capsule or metal cap
Not to be confused with the capsule used to seal the bottle for the aging, the capsule – metal cap – also called plaque de muselet, is a metal disc affixed to the top of the cork with the muselet. Because some of the producers personalized them with a unique design, there are a lot of capsule collectors called placomusophiles.
In Champagne, the winemakers usually hold their champagnes in the cellar after disgorgement for several months before release : it is the post-disgorgement aging. This aging is to give time to the champagnes to recover from the disgorgement and dosage. The longer this stage is, the more the wines will develop the mellow, biscuity richness that characterizes old champagne. However, note that champagnes aged better when the bottle is seal with the crown cap and not with the cork (i.e before the disgorging).
A cuvée prestige is a blended wine and it is considered to be the highest quality champagne of the producer’s range.
A champagne or wine bottle of 27-liters (equal to 36 standard bottles of champagne). It is the largest and rarest size for Champagne bottles with the Solomon. It weighs 143 pounds (65 kg) and measures 100cm high.
Prise de mousse — Secondary Fermentation
The second fermentation of the méthode champenoise; it is the conversion of the still and blended wines into a sparkling wines. The process involves the addition of a small quantity of yeast and sugar – liqueur de tirage – once the wine is bottled.
Pruning — Taille
Strictly regulated since 1938 in Champagne, the pruning – called the taille in french – is essential for the quality of the harvest. Indeed, this process will balance the shape of the vines, regulate and promote the their productivity as well as favor the ripening of the grapes. The period of pruning in Champagne starts when the leaves start to fall and ends mid-December; it restarts in mid-January until March. In April, it is the tying-up that takes over.
A champagne or wine bottle of 20-centiliters (equal to almost 1/4 standard bottle of champagne).
Récoltant-Coopérateur are producers who own their vines and grow their grapes but do not have the production equipment : they give their grapes to the local cooperative and take back wines in winemaking process in progress or champagne ready to be release back.
Récoltant-Manipulant are producers who own their vines, grow their grapes and make champagne exclusively from their vineyard. However, a récoltant-manipulant is allowed to augment their harvest of 5% by purchasing grapes to cooperatives or other producers.
A champagne or wine bottle of 4.5-liters (equal to 6 standard bottles of champagne).
Remuage — Riddling
After aging, the sediments – lees – must be removed from the bottle by a complex process called riddling – remuage in french. Placed on special racks, called pupitres, the bottles are hold at a 45°angle with the crown cap pointed toward the ground. Then, every two days the bottles are turned and slightly shaken with their angle on pupitres gradually increasing in order to collect the lees at the neck of the bottles, ready for disgorgement. This process takes 8 to 10 weeks to have the bottle in a complete straight down position and the lees settled in the neck. Today, producers use a mechanized riddling equipment – called gyropalette – instead of the manual riddling reserved for Prestige cuvées.
Blended wines used in the production of non-vintage champagne. It is an aged still wine blended with the current harvest in order to ensure a consistent style and quality over the years.
Made via two different methods – assemblage (blend) or saignée-, Rosé champagne is a pink champagne with a color varying from light to dark pink depending on the flavor and aroma the winemaker is seeking.
One of the two method for Rosé champagne, made by blending a small amount of red wine from Champagne region to the white sparkling wine cuvée. This technique ensures a consistent rosé over the years with constant flavors and color.
Saignée — Rosé de Saignée
Meaning a “bleeding” in english, it is the second possible process to make a Rosé in Champagne. Rosé de Saignée are produced via maceration of the juice on the black grapes skins in order to obtain darker and more pungent wines. This technique is a little bit tricky as the production is very irregular : it is very difficult to produce consistent Rosé de Saignée from year to year.
A champagne or wine bottle of 9-liters (equal to 12 standard bottles of champagne).
Sec in champagne means a dosage between 17 g and 32 g of sugar per liter.
Secondary Fermentation — Prise de mousse
The second fermentation of the méthode champenoise. It is the conversion of the still and blended wine into a sparkling wine. The process involves the addition of a small quantity of yeast and sugar – liqueur de tirage – once the wine is bottled.
An insect trap used in the vines involving female moth pheromones. This treatment confound the male and prevent them from mating.
Called in french champagne monoparcellaire, single-vineyard champagne also called mono-parcelle are -as their name suggests – wines made exclusively from a single vineyard i.e only one parcelle.
A complex process of fractional blending for aging wines. It uses a certain number of barrel filled with wines over a series of equal aging intervals – usually one year. Once the last barrel is filled, the solera – the barrel with the oldest wine – is tapped every intervals for part of its content to be bottled and refilled from the next oldest barrel. The next oldest barrel is then refilled from the following oldest barrel which is refilled by the following oldest barrel and so on. This process is repeated over many years in order to have a blend of ages and an average age gradually increasing.
A champagne or wine bottle of 18-liters (equal to 24 standard bottles of champagne). It is the largest and rarest size for Champagne bottles with the Primat. It weighs 94.4 pounds (43 kg) and measures 85cm high.
A champagne or wine bottle of 26.25-liters (equal to 35 standard bottles of champagne).
The correct term for any effervescent wines. Champagne is a type of sparkling wine exclusively made in the Champagne region with the Méthode Champenoise. Other famous type of sparkling wines are Cava and Prosecco.
Advice : the quality will depend on the wine you choose and not the type of sparkling wines. There are excellent quality of every type (Cava, Prosecco, Californian Sparkling Wine…), they are just different by their production method, the grapes used, the terroir, the taste… If you want to drink champagne, you should choose a champagne, if you want to drink Prosecco, choose a Prosecco… It is the same thing than for red wines, a Bordeaux is completely different than a Virginian red wine as a champagne will be completely different from a Cava.
During the second fermentation, the bottles are stored and stacked lying on their side. This is the way that champagnes are aging in the bottle before the riddling process.
After riddling, the bottles are stored upside down on their necks before the disgorgement.
Taille is the name for pruning in french but it is also the name for the second pressing just after the cuvée. Usually from inferior quality, it is sometimes used in small quantity to bring fruitiness and lower acidity to the wines.
TCA — 2,4,6-trichloroanisole
This molecule is the chief cause of the cork taint – a wine defect characterized by undesirable smells or tastes. TCA has a characteristic smell similar to a moldy newspaper or damp basement.
To explain this untranslatable french concept, let’s start by citing the International Organisation of Vine and Wine (OIV) definition :
“Vitivinicultural terroir is a concept that refers to an area where the collective knowledge amassed from, on the one hand, the interactions between the identifiable physical and biological environment, and on the other hand, applied vitivinicultural practices, imparts distinctive characteristics on the products originating from that area”
Each terroir brings together a unique combinaison of different components : climate, soil and topography but also the plants growing in that area; it is the identity, the character of a soil. Terroir is what explained the diversity of the wines : two vineyards cultivated in the same way and growing the same grapes will produce completely different wines because they have different terroir.
Tirage — Bottling
Once the wines are blended, the winemaker bottles his wines : it is the bottling or tirage process. It is possible to have on the back label the tirage date.
If the wine do not aged in his final bottle – for sizes from Rehoboam to Melchizedec, or very small bottles – the wines are then decanted from one bottle into another. A technique used to have a more regular fermentation.
A person who grows grapes with his own vines and transform them into wines, unlike the wine-grower who only work the vines.
Vignoble — vineyard
An area of plantation of grape-bearing vines characterized by its terroir. Used to talk about the vineyard of a producer or to talk about the vineyard area of a region in general – example : the Champagne vineyard includes all the plantation of the Appellation.
Resulting from the first fermentation in oak barrel or tank, the still wine or vin clair is then bottled and transformed into champagne. Every year around April, the Cellar master is tasting the vins clairs in order to consider and decide of the future blends.
Vintage Champagne — Millésime
A vintage champagne is made from a single year : grapes grown and harvested in a single specified year. Historically, a vintage is made during years with exceptional quality of grapes. Today, it is more common to find some producers who make a vintage for every harvest, a way for connoisseurs to taste the specificities of each year.
The opposite of a vintage wine is a nonvintage champagne.