We all know that feeling when reading about champagne or looking at labels…..What does that mean?
So, here is a Champagne Glossary of  terms to help navigate your way through!

Either the blend of different varieties of grapes or; the blend of base wines used for specific champagnes.

Autolysis is a fundamental process in the creation of champagne, it refers to the chemical reactions taking place while the wine is in contact with its ‘lees’ for a long period of time. It’s a critical factor in shaping the flavour and mouth feel associated with champagne production.

A 12 litre bottle containing 16 standard bottles of champagne.

Champagne Bottle SizesBase Wine
A still wine (a.k.a vin clair) used in the blending of champagne, most champagnes are blended from many different base wines, usually fermented to around 11% alcohol.

A philosophy of viticulture (grape growing) that involves using organic farming practices including compost as fertiliser, no commercial pesticides and using natural soil supplements, during the grape growing period as well as during the post-harvest processing.
Biodynamic growers follow a planting schedule that aligns with the lunar and cosmic calendars. These methods are used in several countries including France, Australia, Italy, Switzerland, Germany, the United States, Argentina and Austria.

Blanc de Blancs
A champagne made only from white grapes, it’s rare that it’s made from anything other than 100% chardonnay.
However, champagne made from other white grape varieties, such as Arbanne, Petit Meslier or Pinot Blanc, can also be called ‘Blanc de Blancs’.

Blanc de Noirs
A champagne made only from red grapes, either 100% Pinot Noir, 100% Pinot Meunier, or a blend of the two red grape varieties.

The most common style of champagne, containing anywhere between 0 – 12 grams per litre of dosage (sweet wine).

Brut Nature
A champagne bottled without any added dosage (a sweet wine), it’s also referred to as Non-Dosé or Brut Zéro champagne

Brut Sans Année (BSA)
A term commonly used in France meaning a “non-vintage brut”. It designates a house’s entry-level, non-vintage champagne.

Veuve Cliquot Champagne Region map

Map of the French Champagne Region

A region in France that encompasses 5 different départements that contain 634 villages. However, the viticultural title (or appellation) is strict, with only 318 of the 634 villages having the right to produce the wine called ‘champagne’.
The title ‘Champagne’ can only come from the region of Champagne or countries who have special arrangements with the European Union.
Using the title of ‘champagne’ to refer to any other wine products is forbidden e.g. In Australia we call it ‘sparkling wine’.

Named after the a French chemist named Jean-Antoine Chaptal, Chaptalisation involves adding sugar to grape ‘must’, which is the freshly squeezed grape juice still contains skins, seeds and stems, to raise the level of potential alcohol.

Chef de Cave
Otherwise know as ‘The cellarmaster’, the Chef de Cave is the leader who provides direction during the champagne making process in larger winemaking teams.

A historical term for a walled vineyard, although in recent times some Clos don’t have their original walls.
The term is used for a special, high status sites as often they were the vineyards of Cistercian monasteries.
Some well known clos include Krug’s Clos du Mesnil, Billecart Salmon’s Clos Saint Hilaire and Philipponnat’s Clos des Goisses,

Coeur de Cuvée
In French it translates to “heart of the first pressing”, the coeur de cuvée is the best quality portion of juice from the middle pressing, that doesn’t include the first and last portions pressed.

A widely practiced method in making champagne, it is the chilling of a base wine before bottling to encourage tartrate crystals to precipitate, so they don’t form in the champagne bottle later on.

A style of sparkling wine made at a lower pressure than traditional champagne, usually between 3.5 – 4 atmospheres instead of 6 which is standard practice.
The term crémant is now used for sparkling wines in other parts of France not in the Champagne region itself.

A term generally meaning a blend, but it can also refer to the first 2050 litres of champagne juice from a 4000kg press, the finest part of the grape pressing.

A semi sweet style of champagne, containing a dosage of between 33 – 50 grams of sugar per litre.

The Process of Disgorgement with Champagne

Process of Champagne ‘Disgorgement’

Disgorgement, or Dégorgement
The crucial process of removing the yeast ‘lees’ sediment from the bottle, which occurs after ‘riddling’ (the turning and tilting of bottles in an upright rack). The bottle neck is then frozen in a solution around -27°C, causing all the sediment to form as a solid mass or plug. To remove it, the bottle is opened and the plug is expelled made easy by the pressure built up in the bottle.
During Disgorgement, the oxygen that permeates through the bottle will continue to help enhance the wines aroma and character.

Sugar added to champagne after disgorgement, either through a liqueur d’expédition (A mixture of either beet or cane sure and wine), or MCR (concentrated and rectified grape must).
The dosage is normally a crucial part of champagne, as it balances out the high acidity of the wine and plays and vital role in the development and enhancement of flavour as well as in the champagne aging process
The level of dosage added determines the final sweetness level i.e Brut, Extra Brut, Demi-Sec, etc.

The sweetest and most common style of champagne in the 18th – 19th centuries, with a dosage of over 50 grams per litre.

Estate-Bottled Champagne
A champagne produced and bottled by the same company who grew the grapes, however, that’s not always the case.
A famous example is Louis Roederer’s vintage wines that all come from their own vineyards, but can be considered as estate-bottled champagnes.

Extra Brut
A champagne containing no more than 6 grams of sugar per litre, sometimes it contains no sugar at all. Some champagne producers prefer to label their wine as Brut Nature or Non-Dosé.

Extra Sec/Extra Dry
A champagne with a dosage level of between 12 – 20 grams of sugar per litre.

The conversion of sugars into alcohol by yeasts.
Champagne goes through two fermentations:
The 1st fermentation in a tank or barrel to create a still, white wine.
The 2nd fermentation occurs when wine is bottled together with a small amount of sugar and yeast, to create the sparkle. Carbonic gas, that is the by product of this 2nd fermentation is what gives champagne its bubbles!

Grand Cru
A term referring to villages classified at 100% on the old (now non-existent) ‘échelle des crus ‘, a percentile system used to determine the pricing of grapes.
There are 17 grand cru villages 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.
While the ‘échelle des crus’ system has been abolished, the terms Grand Cru and Premier Cru are still officially used.

Grande Marque
A term used for any members of the ‘Syndicat des Grandes Marques’, an esteemed organisation made up of Champagne’s most famous houses. The ‘Syndicat des Grandes Marques’ was disbanded in 1997, however the term ‘Grande Marque’ continues to be used to refer to those famous houses.

Grower Champagne
Champagne produced by grape growers who also make their own wine, focusing on smaller-scale production and expressing terroir.

Gyropalette for Champagne and Sparkling Wine

Gyropalette for Champagne and Sparkling Wine

A mechanical device increasingly used in place of hand riddling, to collect yeast sediments in the neck of champagne bottles preparation for disgorgement. Gyropalettes have made this process faster, with no drop in the quality of the champagne and now small and large champagne producers use Gyropalettes today.

A 3 litre bottle, equivalent to 4 standard bottles of champagne.

Lees Aging
The lees are the deposits of spent yeast cells leftover after fermentation. Lees are nourishing and potentially beneficial, imparting a particular character to the wine and functioning as a natural antioxidant.
Before bottling, the base wine for champagne is sometimes aged on its ” fine lees”, those leftover from the initial fermentation.
However, lees aging in Champagne generally refers to the aging of the wine in the bottle itself, where the yeast cells left over from the second fermentation are trapped inside the bottle until the bottle is disgorged.
This period of aging on the lees is fundamental to the creation of champagne’s inimitable character, and a minimum amount of time on the lees is imposed by law—15 months for non-vintage champagnes and three years for vintage-dated ones, although in practice the period of lees aging is usually much longer at the better houses.

Liqueur d’Expédition
The blend of sugar and wine added to champagne as dosage, after disgorgement. Beet or cane sugar is commonly used, and depending on the preference, the wine can be young or old.

Liqueur de Tirage
The solution containing wine, yeast and sugar to induce the 2nd fermentation.  The common measurement for champagne is 24 grams of sugar, which produces roughly 6 atmospheres of pressure, meaning that 4 grams of sugar per litre of wine will produce 1 atmosphere of pressure.

Lutte Raisonnée
Translates to a “reasoned struggle”, that means the middle path between standard viticulture and strictly organic farming.
In some parts of the Champagne region, especially in the north, the wet, cold organic farming can be risky. Mildew is a constant threat to the health of the vines and grapes but also the success of the harvest.
Lutte Raisonnée (in theory) looks to rely less on the use of commercial herbicides and pesticides, but in times of necessity, producers will still be able to treat their vines with synthetic products.

A bottle containing 1.5 litres of wine, considered many connoisseur and producers and to be the ideal size for properly aging champagne.

Méthode Traditionelle
The official term used in the European Union for the traditional French way of making champagne or sparkling wine involving a second fermentation in the bottle.

A 6 litre bottle, containing 8 standard bottles of champagne.

Micro-Terroir Champagne
A champagne from a restricted area; either from a single village (monocru) or from a single vineyard (mono-parcelle).

A vintage wine or a vintage year. it simply means that the wine comes from a single vintage and has nothing to do with its level of quality
In order to have Millésime on the label, the champagne needs to be declared  “vintage” at the time of harvest.

Champagne made from grapes grown in a single village.

How a wine “feels” on the palate
When tasting ask yourself how its texture feels in your mouth. Is it sharp, lush, lean or soft? Round, prickly, cooling, hot, sandy, coarse or drying? rough, smooth, velvety, or furry?

A 15 litre bottle, containing 20 standard bottles of champagne.

Perpetual Blend/Perpetual Cuvée
A system of storing wine in which reserve wines and blended together in a single ‘cuvée, that is refilled by wine from each new harvest, eventually creating a multi-vintage blend.

The shaking of the champagne bottle, that has been secured with the wire muzzle (Muselet) to mix the wine with the ‘Liqueur d’Expédition’

Post-Disgorgement Aging
First-rate champagne producers try to hold their champagnes after disgorgement for a minimum of 6 months before release, as most champagne’s will benefit from additional aging and the wines need time to recover the act of disgorgement.
It should be noted, too, that aging before disgorgement and aging after disgorgement achieve different results, as the wines exist in different environments: before disgorgement, the wine is in a largely anaerobic environment, as the lees are natural antioxidants. As Jean-Hervé Chiquet of Champagne Jacquesson says, “Lees aging gives maturation and complexity in a much less oxidative way than aging after disgorgement.” The act of disgorging introduces oxygen into the wine and removes the presence of the lees, inaugurating a new stage in the wine’s development and allowing it to eventually progress towards the mellow, biscuity richness that uniquely characterizes old champagne.

Premier Cru
This refers to a village that would have been rated between 90 – 99% on the old ‘échelle des crus’ (See Grand Cru for definition) that would have received between 90 – 99% of the fixed price for grapes in that harvest. There is a total of 43 premier cru villages in Champagne, all of which are located in the Marne département.

Prestige Cuvée
A prestige cuvée also referred to as tête de cuvée, is the most expensive, highest quality champagne in a house’s range.
The first Prestige Cuvée was created in 1936 called Dom Pérignon, launched by Moët & Chandon.

The final pressing of the grapes, following the cuvée (the first 2,050 litres) and the taille (the next 500 litres).
Legally, the Rebêche is sent directly to a distillery to be turned into alcohol as it cannot be used in the production of any champagne, due to its poor quality.

Récoltant-Coopérateur (RC)
A champagne producer who gives their grapes to a local cooperative, who make the champagne and gives a portion (in bottles) back to the producer.
They can then sell the champagne under their own champagne label, marked as RC.

Récoltant-Manipulant (RM)
A champagne producer who grows grapes and makes champagne exclusively from their own vines.

A 4.5 litre bottle, containing 6 standard bottles of champagne.

Remuage, or Riddling
The process of tilting and turning champagne bottles in an upright rack, that encourages sediments to collect in the neck of the bottle in preparation for Disgorgment.
A cellarmaster for Veuve Clicquot named Antoine de Müller, is credited with the invention the riddling rack in 1816.
There are still some champagne houses who continue to riddle by hand, however the new Gyropalette can accomplish the task faster and more consistently and is being increasingly used by champagne producers.

Reserve Wine
Older wines blended with the wine from a current harvest to make a non-vintage champagne. Smaller growers usually keep reserve wines from the last 1 – 2 vintages, while some larger producers have large stocks of reserves dating back decades.

Larmandier-Bernier Rose de Saignee Premier Cru Champagne

Larmandier-Bernier Rose de Saignee Premier Cru Champagne

Rosé Champagne
A pink champagne, often made by the blending in a small amount of red wine, champagne is the only title of wine in France that is allowed to blend red and white wine together.
Rosé champagne can also be made with the saignée method, which involves steeping the grape skins in order to impart colour.

In French Saignée translates to “bleeding”
Sometimes, in the early stages of making a red wine, the winemaker ‘bleeds off ‘some of the juice in the process and puts this aside to make a specific rosé wine. Traditionally this process has been used in many parts of France and is different to ‘skin contact’ or ‘blending’ to produce the colour
This method normally produces champagnes that are deeper in colour and overall more pungent in aroma during their youth.

Sabrage is performed using a blunt-edge sword (which in the olden days was called a Saber) to slice open a Champagne (or Sparkling wine) bottle,

A 9 litre bottle, containing 12 standard bottles of champagne.

In French, it means ‘dry,’ it refers to champagne with a dosage level of between 17 – 35 grams of sugar per litre.

Sur Latte
The storing of champagne bottles on their sides during the second fermentation and aging and before they are transferred to riddling racks in preparation for disgorgement. Sur latte also happens to be the most space-efficient method of storing bottles in a cellar.

Veuve Cliquot Terroir Notes

Sur Pointe
The storing of champagne bottles upside down in crates or cages, while waiting to be disgorged. The same method can be used for long-term storage of undisgorged bottles still containing sediment, in order to concentrate any sediments in the neck so that there is minimal effect on the champagne.

There are 2 uses of the word Taille:
1. The pruning of the grape vines
2. The 2nd pressing of the grapes and the 500 litres of juice directly after the initial pressing of 2,050 litres, called the cuvée. The taille is widely considered to be lower quality than the cuvée, but some champagne producers use small amounts of taille for its lower acidity and fruitiness.

The concept that the specific characteristics of a vineyard’s soil, climate, and environment influence the flavour and quality of the wine.

The bottling of the champagne wine, however it also could be referring to the year non-vintage wines are bottled rather than the year they were harvested e.g. “Tirage 2010″ means that the wine was bottled in 2010, and the base vintage is most likely 2009.

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