How to read a Champagne label

How to read a champagne label
Do you love Champagne but not sure where to start when looking at the label?
Here are some of my tips to help you understand what everything means!
First off, champagne is a wine region in Northern France and can only be used on the label if the wine actually comes from there.
There are other boxes to tick as well like grape varieties and winemaking methods but that's for another day!
Along with that all-important word 'Champagne' which is telling you where the grapes come from, you will also find the usual wine bottle info:
  • Who made the wine (e.g. Bollinger or Ruinart)
  • The alcohol level (usually between 11.5-12.5%)
  • And sometimes a name given to that particular champagne, often known as a cuvée e.g. 'Special Cuvée' for Bollinger's classic offering
But there are other terms to know about here:
  1. The sweetness. The most common term for this is 'Brut' and is basically telling you it's a dry wine. In wine geek terms, it could have anywhere between 0-12g of sugar per litre. But the acidity of Champagne will be high enough to balance any sweetness out for you. If you want something bone-dry look for the terms 'Extra-Brut' or 'Brut Nature' instead. Fun fact - 'Extra Dry' on the label actually means it's slightly sweet.
  2. The vintage. Most Champagnes state 'N.V.' on the label meaning non vintage. This means it has been made from a blend of wines from different years (vintages), winemakers do this to ensure consistency, so that every time someone pops a bottle of their fizz, it tastes the same. This is important because the weather in champagne can be very unpredictable each year, so relying on wines from other years can help balance the blend! If you see a year on the label, this is a vintage champagne and means the grapes and wine only came from one single year. They only do this when the year is exceptionally good for quality - these tend to be more expensive (and more delicious)
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