Understanding Champagne Jargon
23rd November 2015
New to the Champagne world and want to know what all the jargon means (or impress your friends)? Here’s some common words you might hear when it comes to Champagne.
Assemblage – The blend of different wines or grapes used to make a Champagne.
Blending – Combining wines from different crus, grape varieties and years.
Blanc de Blancs – Made with white grapes only.
Blanc de Noirs – Made with black grapes only.
Chef de Cave – The Cellar Master.
Cru – The quality ranking system amongst Champagne villages and their vineyards. At the top are 17 Grand Cru villages (ranked as 100% quality), followed by 41 Premier Cru villages (90-99%) followed by all the other villages (ranked between 80-89%) which are given the designation Cru.
Fermentation – 1st Fermentation – Takes place in stainless steel or wood and results in a high acid base wine.
2nd Fermentation – A mixture of ‘liqueur de triage’, sugar and yeast is added to the blended wine and then bottled with a crown cap.
Malolactic fermentation – Occurs after 1st fermentation; certain bacteria in the still wine break down the harsh malic acid and turn it into milder lactic acid. It is thought that malolactic fermentation makes a Champagne smoother and more complex. Some Champagne houses deliberately choose not to carry out malolactic fermentation to produce a different and distinctive style of their own.
Lees Ageing – Non-vintage Champagne must spend at least 15 months in the bottle before release and vintage Champagne a minimum of 3 years. They are often left for much longer.
Remuage/Riddling – Done by hand or machine, bottles must be rotated to loosen the sediment and for it to collect in the neck of the bottle.
Disgorgement – Neck of the bottle is plunged into solution at – 27°C. Sediment (in form of a frozen plug) is ejected under pressure when the bottle is opened.
Muselet: The wire cage on top of the cork.
Millésime – Vintage.
Non-Vintage Champagne – Blended from multiple years.
Gyropalette—A mechanical device used in place of riddling.
Grower Champagne – Champagne grown and produced by one estate.
Cuvée – In the wine world, the word cuvée generally refers to a blend of wines. In Champagne it also means the first pressing.
Prestige Cuvée – This Champagne is the highest quality and msot expensive in the winery’s range.
Rosé Champagne – Pink Champagne made with two methods: Either adding some red wine, or by the saignée method.
Saignée -Process of making rosé Champagne in which the colour comes from maceration on the skins rather than by the blending of red wine, tend to be darker in colour.
Brut – The most popular style, it is dry with a hint of sweetness.
Sec – ‘Dry’ in French, but it is actually slightly sweeter than Brut. Demi-Sec is sweeter still.
Terroir – The climate, soil and geography that defines the quality of the wine.
Vintage – Champagne made from grapes harvested in one exceptional year, not blended with other years.
Glass of Bubbly
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