Learning About Champagne and How to Serve It

learning-about-champagne-and-how-to-serve-itTo be socially cognizant, you should understand how to read  champagne labels, the correct way to serve champagne, and become experienced in selecting the different champagnes made from different grapes to produce dry or sweet champagnes. By learning these procedures plus the correct pronunciation of terms, names and when to use them will cement your standing in any elegant gathering of wine connoisseurs.

A Wine By Any Other Name…

The only wines which legally can be called champagne are produced in the Champagne province of France. The grape juices are selected, mixed and stored to ferment in the primary fermentation process. The second fermentation gives champagne required effervescence, after which it ages for many years.

There are several groupings categorizing champagne:

  • Non-vintage blends are from juice of a number of harvests and don’t identify a vintage year;
  • Vintage blends only use the yield of a single year’s harvest, and it is registered on their label.  Vintage Champagnes indicate all grapes used were harvested from one particular year. According to regulations, Vintage Champagne must be aged for 3 years or more.
  • Rose champagne achieves the color adding fermented pinot noir grape skins to tint the wine;
  • Cuvees de prestige are made from only the best grapes from the top vineyards.

Sweet Or Dry?

Within these categories, champagnes are also typed according to sweetness, listing demi-sec and doux as sweetest champagnes and brut or extra brut tasting the driest.  Sweetness is acquired by sugaring wine just before the final corking.

How To Serve With Panache

Champagne must be chilled to 50 degrees in your refrigerator, never the freezer, or in the alternative, in a bucket of ice and water just before serving.

When opening the bottle, point the cork away from people and objects.  First undo the wire caging around the cork, and holding the cork in your hand firmly, hold the bottle in your other hand.  Slowly turn the bottle, not the cork, until the cork begins to free, and bend the cork as it exits the bottle.

Label Information On French Champagne Bottles

  • NM Negociant ManipulantFirm or person buying grapes, juices or win and completes production.
  • RM Recoltant ManipulantFirm or person producing wine on its own premises only.
  • RC Recoltant Cooperateur – Grower who supplies grapes to cooperatives.
  • CM Cooperative de Manipulation -Co-op which creates and sells wines of its membership.
  • Societe de RecoltantsFamily business harvesting solely by family.
  • MA Marque  d’ Acheteur – The buyer’s own brand, made and labeled with name on label although brand belongs to another. Custom restaurant brands are in this classification.
  • ND Negociant Distributeur – A merchant who buys wines and labels bottles in his own premises with custom labels.

Label Information On American Wines

United States Vineyards are mandated to have the following information on each bottle of wine created here:

  1.  Brand and Producer creating the wine.
  2.  State, County, AVA – geographic area where a majority of its grapes grew. Usually, 75% + of grapes must be grown in the stipulated area, and if AVA specific, then 85%+ is required.
  3.  Vintage  states the year the content grapes were harvested.
  4.  Name and Address of Producer must be listed, plus the process.  If Estate bottled, grapes must be grown, crushed, finished, aged, fermented and bottled there.
  5.  Alcohol percentage measured by ABV not proof: 40% ABV, not 80 proof.
  6.  Volume –Number of milliliters in the bottle.
  7.  Health Warning warns to avoid alcohol and sulfides when pregnant.

Sulfide warnings are labeled in the USA due to allergies and dangers to pregnant women. Other countries do not require.