Attended a recent Champagne tasting at PJ Wine. Meeting with some very knowledgeable reps provided some great wines and some new (to me) “insider” information.
The primary grapes used for making Champagne are Chardonnay (white grape), Pinot Noir, Pinot Menuier (red/black grapes).
Most Champagnes come from a blend of all three. Meunier gives fresh fruit and energy, Pinot Noir gives body and backbone, Chardonnay, high in acid provides the ability to age.
Champagne made with only Chardonnay (or very rarely, Pinot Blanc) is called Blanc de Blanc– white (wine) from white (grapes).
Champagne made with 100% Pinot Noir, 100% Pinot Meunier or a mixture of the two is called Blanc du Noir– white (wine) from black (grapes).
Now for the Advanced…
Four more grapes are permitted to be used in Champagne: Arbanne, Petit Meslier, Pinot Blanc and Pinot Gris.
Pinot Menuier is often referred to as simply “Meunier” by those “in the know”. This is because there are doubts as to whether it is actually part of the Pinot family.
Sweetness in Champagne (Provided by the addition of sugar to the final wine)
Wines to which no dosage is added may be called Brut Nature, Extra Brut or Zero Dosage.
• Brut Nature or non dosé, bone dry- Brut Zero 0-3 grams/liter Residual Sugar
• Extra Brut- 0-6 g/l RS
• Brut, dry- 0-12 g/l RS
• Extra Dry- 12-17 g/l RS
• Dry- sec, dryish- 17-32 g/l RS
• Demi-Sec, medium sweet- 32-50 g/l RS
• Doux, relatively sweet- 50+ g/l RS
The final dosage is made up of cane/beet sugar (sucrose) or MCR (moût concentré rectifié), concentrated grape must.
MCR is a super-sweet grape concentrate comprising fructose and glucose. It’s primarily made in the Languedoc to use up an over supply of ripe grapes.
Which sugar is used is a hot topic for debate.
Everything else you want to know about Champagne