It’s Champagne Day 2022 so we’re sharing with you information about the different types and styles of champagne as well as which big house champagnes and grower champagnes are recommended by French wine importers and champagne experts in Australia for ChampagneDay 2021.
DIFFERENT KINDS OF CHAMPAGNE
There are a few ways that champagnes can be distinguished from one another. Such as by:
- the grapes used and whether from a particular year or many years
- reference to the sweetness – you may have seen “brut” on a bottle before.
- a two letter code that you’ll often find on the front of a bottle (unless the bottle has been completely relabelled for the Australian market)
The grapes used
There are 3 main grape varietals used in the making of champagne:
- Pinot Noir
- Pinot Meunier
4 others are also permitted to be used but rarely are:
- Pinot Gris
- Pinot Blanc
- Pinot Meslier
You can get an idea of which grapes have been used from the following wording:
- Blanc de Blancs (literally means white from whites) is 100% chardonnay grapes
- Blanc de Noirs (is a white champagne made from black grapes, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier
- Rosé (this will be made either by mixing red wine and white wine or via the saignée method (where the colour bleeds from the grapes)
Another way to distinguish between champagnes is by the amount of sugar added to them (called the dosage).
Brut nature (also sometimes called Brut Zéro) is the driest of champagnes with no sugar added at all. Doux is the other end of the scale and is the sweetest of all the champagnes with more than 50 grams of sugar per litre.
The dry to sweetness scale is as follows:
- Brut Nature/Brut Zéro has no sugar added;
- Extra Brut has between 0 and 6 grams of sugar per litre
- Brut – the most popular, and probably most commonly found, style of champagne has less than 12 grams per litre
- Extra Dry despite its slightly confusing name actually sits in the middle of the 7 point scale and 12- 17 grams of sugar per litre is allowed
- Dry is probably actually more accurately called medium sweet as it has 17-32 grams per litre
- Demi-sec (which means half dry in French) is a very sweet champagne, more likely to be drunk with dessert at 33-50 grams per litre
- Doux is the sweetest of all the champagnes with more than 50 grams per litre permitted.
Other types of champagne
Some other words that you may see on a bottle can often explain the price difference between champagnes from the same brand:
- Non-vintage: grapes from different years blended together
- Vintage: made only from grapes from a particular year, which will be marked on the bottle
- Prestige Cuvée: the premium product of a champagne range
Who made the champagne
Two little letters often on the front label of a champagne bottle tell you a lot about who made the champagne:
- NM : Négociant manipulant. A person or legal entity that buys grapes, grape must or wine to make Champagne on their own premises and market it under their own label. All of the big Champagne Houses belong in this category.
- RM : Récoltant manipulant. A grower who makes and markets Champagne under their own label, from grapes exclusively sourced from their own vineyards and processed on their own premises.
- RC : Récoltant-coopérateur. A cooperative-grower who markets co-op produced Champagne under their own label.
- CM : Coopérative de manipulation. A wine co-op that markets Champagne made from members’ grapes.
- SR : Société de Récoltants. A family firm of growers that makes and markets Champagne under its own label, using grapes sourced from family vineyards.
- ND : Négociant distributeur. A distributor who buys in finished bottles of Champagne for labelling on their own premises.
- MA : Marque d’Acheteur. An ‘own brand’ wine label produced exclusively for one client (supermarket, celebrity or other).
CHAMPAGNE RECOMMENDATIONS FOR CHAMPAGNEDAY 2021
We asked French wine importers and champagne experts in Australia to recommend big house champagnes (NM champagnes) and grower champagnes (RM champagnes) for ChampagneDay 2021. Find out their recommendations below.
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JJ from Popsy & JJ recommends grower champagne Charles Mignon Premium Reserve Brut Champagne NV to celebrate ChampagneDay 2021.
This wine is a super prestigious Champagne that has been given top honours among the upper most echelon of Champagne Houses! It has won over 150 awards and medals!! It is also a truly artisan house that only produces 300,000 bottles per year compared to the big makers who are making over 10 million a years! It is now overseen by the current generation of the Mignon family, Guillaume and Manon, who as kids ran through the vineyards and played hide and seek in the cellars.
So, what’s in the bottle? Immediately on pouring it you notice the incredibly fine bead which leads to a luxuriously creamy mouth feel. On the nose is apple, pear and a hint of stone fruit. On the palate is another blast of pear, some citrus notes and a trace of brioche. The acid leads to a fantastic burst but is kept in check by the perfect balance of sweetness and fine bead. It is a super finessey style only the finest Champagne Houses seem to be able to muster. Nothing in your face about this. We tasted dozens and dozens of Champagnes and although we wanted to bring you back a couple, the Charles Mignon was just such a standout that it was all we needed! Don’t miss out on this rare glimpse into the artisan, historic world of French Champagne.
A few Popsy & JJ tips …we used flutes in our video review, but you could certainly throw it in a nouveau style of champers glass if you’re feeling posh. This one could sit in the cellar for a few years but that won’t happen at our houses! With all its finesse, we matched it with fresh natural Sydney rock oysters with Tetsuya dressing on the side. What more could you need in life?!
Champagne Dehours – Grand Reserve NV as a grower champagne (Clos Cachet doesn’t stock house champagnes) for ChampagneDay 2021.
This cuvée is extra aged on lees and reveals the character of Pinot Meunier grapes wonderfully. It’s dominant use of Pinot Meunier sets it apart from most other Domaines of the Champagne region. With Domaine Dehours being located in the Marne Valley, the meunier grape is suited to this cooler area of Champagne and with Jérome championing the diversity of his terroirs through producing single vineyard cuvées this Grand Reserve is a top quality grower champagne.
The palate is vibrant and jolly, featuring apple pie, white and yellow stone fruit, cinnamon and vanilla spice. The dynamic mouthfeel and bubbles are silky smooth with delicious minerals lingering on the finish.
What are the differences between the grower champagne you’ve chosen and champagne house champagne (apart from the fact that it is a grower champagne)? Taste, bubbles, dosage?
Domaine Dehours is a part of les Artisans du Champagne, a class of 17 Domaines, who have come together through their common principles of sharing, respect, high standards, passion, and freedom. This group does not focus on setting guidelines and a single way of creating sparkling wine, rather they work to complement each other’s creations and adapt to the changing eco-system together. This is a focus not common with house champagne. Therefore, the character, the depth of complexity in this Champagne is truly unique.
What would you marry it with?
I would pair this wine with aperitif-based foods like charcuterie and cheese, deep fried snacks, salmon and prawns.
David Donald has taken a different approach for ChampagneDay 2021 and will be celebrating with Champagne’s only indigenous variety, ‘Meunier’.
There has been a groundswell of young producers who are championing the variety to re-establish its noble reputation. It’s an essential component in many big house brands as it provides the flesh, body, and textural element in any blend. Pol Roger, Piper-Heidsieck and Moet use a high proportion in their blends and even the exalted Krug are great believers in how important the addition is to their ‘Grande Cuvée’.
Although 100% Meunier cuvees are relatively rare, the beauty of the best grower examples is that they showcase the variety and unique terroir of the producer.
Salmon are Meunier specialists, and this is a great example. Bright and fleshy with tropical nuances, candied white fruits and honey with a mineral, savoury finish. Textural, complex, pure, and persistent.
Some critics have suggested that Meunier doesn’t have the ability to age. However, the last time I visited the estate, I shared a bottle of the 1976 Meunier with third generation winemaker Alexandre Salmon, which was still incredibly vibrant and fresh. If you haven’t discovered Meunier in its purest form, here is the place to start.
Dosage is 7gms/ltr, combined with the palate weight and richness, it could be served as an aperitif right through to the main course. I served this with roast pork belly recently and the match was sublime!
Amanda Reboul from Effervescence shares her recommendations for ChampagneDay 2021.
Négociant manipulant champagne (big champagne house champagne)
The big house champagnes play such an important role in promoting the drink and the region on the world scale. However, they only own about 10% of the land in the region, so must buy up grapes from small growers in order to have the volume they require. As a result of getting grapes from across all the different growing areas, they tend to focus on having a house style with their NV champagne that is always consistent. As with any luxury product, there are some people who adore a particular label and are happy to be seen drinking a certain brand.
Some of my Amanda’s favourite Houses that she recommends for ChampagneDay 2021:
- Moët & Chandon – elegant and fresh. Great with oysters and beluga caviar
- Bollinger – full bodied, yet elegant. Pairs well with truffles and duck
- Canard-Duchene – the elegance of Pinot Noir. Pairs beautifully with scallops in butter and sage
- Mumm – because who doesn’t love their Mum! A lighter style that is such a great party starter.
Grower champagnes are, as the name suggests, made by individual growers from grapes that are grown on their own land. They do not buy grapes from other people. Interestingly, the growers own 90% of the land in Champagne, but only represent 10% of the market.
The interesting thing about growers is because their grapes come from their own land, they are much more an expression of the individual terroir of each grower, and can vary from year to year due to climate and growing conditions. If a particular grower is situated in an area that is well known for Pinot Noir, then their standard NV cuvée will reflect those characteristics.
The four main growing regions and the grapes that they are best suited to are:
- Montagne de Reims – Pinot Noir
- Vallee de la Marne – Meunier
- Cote des Blancs – Chardonnay
- Aube – pinot noir
Some of my favourite growers from each region are:
- Montagne de Reims – Dumenil
- Vallee de la Marne – Champagne Salmon
- Cotes des Blancs – Veuve Fourny et Fils
- Aube – Laurenti
Kaaren Palmer, Dame-Chevalier des Côteaux de Champagne shares her knowledge and recommendations with us for ChampagneDay 2021.
(along the lines of Jacquesson) has that delightful combination of freshness from the base vintage and complexity from Roederer’s reserve wines which include wine from a solera which was commenced some years ago. I love it!
Serve with coffin bay oysters (amongst other treats).
Growers – hard to know where to start, I really have so many favourites.
One of my (many) favourite grower champagnes is Jacques Picard in Berru, north-east of Reims. They are really underrated for historical reasons.
East End Cellars in Adelaide have just started to import and distribute them.
Great reviews in Jancis Robinson’s tasting notes.
Annie Gasparre from Single Vineyard Sellers recommends Champagne Jacquart Blanc de Blanc for ChampagneDay 2021, which is a co-operative champagne (CM) rather than a grower champagne.
This champagne has suggestions of delicately fresh citron, star anise, iodine and lemon core on the nose. Swirling reveals fruity notes of pear, white peach, fresh grape, grapefruit and rhubarb. Point of entry on the palate is clean and fresh with creamy, soft effervescence. The palate is fleshy and crisp with minerality that is both limestone and sandy and imparts honesty, salinity and length. The finish is suffused with lemon and adds wonderfully concentrated, fleshy and deliciously saline drive.
What would you serve with it?
This pairs nicely with rich fish, such as salmon, tuna etc. Also with shellfish. For those that are not a fan of seafood, soft cheese, or pork.
For a grower champagne for ChampagneDay 2021, Annie recommends a champagne that Single Vineyards Sellers does not sell which is Jerome Prevost La Closerie Les Beguines
This is a unique wine, using close to 100% Pinot Meunier, although now there is a very small amount of 10 year old Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Blanc which were planted next to the Pinot Meunier parcel. The soil is calcareous sand, layered over clay, over calcareous sand. The vineyard is organic, natural. Fruit is picked ripe and vinified using barrels for 10 months. With age these wines only get better. This is very different to the Blanc de Blancs, with a similar price.
What would you marry it with?
This would also go well with similar food to Jacquart Blanc de Blanc – salmon, shellfish, pork etc
Natalie from The Bubbles Review recommends two champagnes that were featured at The Bubbles Festivals for ChampagneDay 2021. Rather than recommending champagne from one of the big houses and a grower champagne (many of these are out of stock around Australia), Natalie has recommended an MA (buyer’s or marketing brand) and a CM (a co-op champagne).
Champagne Royal Riviera Cuvee Brut Supreme I’ve recently done a virtual tasting on our Facebook page with this champagne. I describe it as a lifestyle or party champagne. It is a different category to a Negociant (NM) as an MA which translates to a buyers or marketing brand.
The name Royal Riviera has been licenced by the creators to promote the fun and frivolity of the French Riviera. In saying that, this is still a serious champagne. Made in Epernay, it is a blend of Pinot Noir 50%, Chardonnay 40%, Pinot Meunier 10% from Grand Cru and Premier Cru parcels. It is in the Brut range, a non-vintage as it is made from 100% reserve wines. A traditional champagne, perfectly balanced to create an easy drinking style. Which is perfect for a party!
Predominantly Pinot Noir and aging on lees, this wine is very playful on the palate. Mellow tannin swirls enable the elegant mousse to open to its full potential, creating fullness in the cheeks. The second-generation notes are complemented by freshness and soft effervescence achieved by blending Chardonnay from exceptional Grand Cru villages.
The structure and integrity of the Chardonnay offers robustness and vigour, whilst arousing a pleasantly elegant floral bouquet. The true style of this complex and well-balanced wine is completed by a touch of Pinot Meunier to engage the fruitiness and development of the wine. It has been aged for 5-7 years on lees with a dosage of 9 gms.
The balance of grape varieties in this champagne allows for effortless food pairing with most, if not all, dishes. It is a champagne that will take you from “caviar to cupcakes”.
Royal Riviera proudly celebrates the style of Monte Carlo and the French Riviera.
Women Wine and Spirit Awards – London 2020 – Double Gold
Glass of bubbly awards 2019 – Gold – First date category
NOTE: This is the same champagne recommended by Single Vineyard Sellers above.
This one is not a grower champagne, but a ‘growers’ champagne. Coming from the same group of one of the original co-operatives. A co-op champagne (CM) is owned by the growers and has access to many of the Grand Cru and Premier Cru regions of Champagne. This champagne was our VIP tasting at The Bubbles Festival Sydney. In some other locations we tasted the 2012 vintage, which was delightful as well, but has now sold out with the importer, but if you are lucky you may still find some stocks on the shelves at Vintage Cellars.
The 2013 Vintage Blanc de Blancs is also delightful, a characterful Champagne encapsulating the youthful fruitiness of the year with all the vibrant minerality of Chardonnay Grand Crus. What I particularly enjoyed about this wine was the creaminess, cut through by the delicate fruit notes and minerality on the palate. The colour is an enticing lemon-yellow hue with pale silvery yellow tints, with fine, lively bubbles. The nose recalls mineral aromas of chalk, sugar coated liquorice entwined with blanched almonds, lemon peel and fresh grape on first pour. Airing adds refinement with delicate aromas of acacia, freesia and notes of verbena infusion lifted by Granny Smith apple and crushed pear.
The palate is supple and fresh at point of entry with creamy, soft effervescence. The Champagne develops luscious fruit-forward weight underscored by a faint zesty acidity suffused with lemon. The mid-palate revolves around chalky minerality which imparts salinity, honesty and length. A seamless fusion of rich minerality and fruity freshness typical of the vintage characterises the whole. Carefully judged dosage of 7gms creates an appealing, creamy sensation on the finish which extends to a beautiful long length.
This Blanc de Blancs is a blend from the Grand Cru Chardonnay regions of 40% Avize, 35% Chouilly, 15% Cramant, 10% Oger. It has been aged on lees for around 6 years. This was delightful drinking now, and could easily be aged for another 5 to 10 years.
Food pairing suggestions from the winemakers are Scallops – Roasted with white butter, liquorice and chervil; Cod fillet – Tartare of oysters and mashed potatoes with Yuzu butter; Veal tartare – Cockles, clams and cumquat. It also works perfectly on its own as an aperitif.
Sara Underdown from Vine & Bubble magazine shares her big house and grower champagne recommendations for ChampagneDay 2021.
Which négociant manipulant champagne do you recommend for #champagneday and why? I think it’s apt to choose any champagne produced by one of the great Grandes Marques. Each have forged a path of remarkable endurance and quality, and therefore a legacy, for the region. Take your pick from Veuve Clicquot, Bollinger, Pol Roger, Lanson or Louis Roederer. There are others too, but these producers are among my favourites. Personally, I will celebrate with a bottle of Pol Roger Blanc de Blancs 2013.
What would you serve with it? Seared scallops, champagne sage butter, capers.
Which grower champagne would you recommend for ChampagneDay 2021 and why? Pierre Gimonnet et Fils Special Club Cramant Grand Cru
What are the differences between the grower champagne you’ve chosen and the champagne house champagne (apart from the fact that it is a grower champagne)? Taste, bubbles, dosage? Both are made exclusively from chardonnay taken from grand cru fruit in the Cote des Blancs, though Pierre Gimonnet is single-village (Cramant) and Pol Roger sources from Oiry, Chouilly, Cramant, Avize, Oger and Le Mesnil. The Special Club Cramant has a lovely silky, airy elegance and rainwater like purity whereas Pol Roger’s blanc de blancs is more opulent with pastries, white flowers and zesty freshness.
What would you marry it with? Confit chicken in a light lemon sauce.
Which style of champagne do you like? Sweeter? Dryer? What’s your favourite champagne to drink?
Happy ChampagneDay 2022!