Types of champagne - Dry to Sweet, Vintage vs Non-Vintage


Beyond the champagne brand, there are many types of champagne. But what do they all mean?

Here is Emperor Champagne's simple guide to the types of champagne you can enjoy - from the level of sweetness, to the style of grape to the year of harvest.

Champagne vs Sparkling wine

But first...champagne can only be referred to and labelled as champagne if it comes from the region of Champagne in France. There are many other sparkling wines, from prosecco to cava, but they are not champagne.

Types of champagne

Level of sweetness (dosage)

Extra Brut / Ultra Brut Champagne

This is one of the least sweet style of champagne. It will feature 0-6 grams of residual sugar per litre, or under 1 gram per glass.

- Try Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut Nature NV

Brut Champagne

This is still a dry style of champagne with 0-12 grams of residual sugar per litre, or under 2 grams per glass.

- G.H.Mumm Cordon Rouge NV

Dry (Sec)

In French, sec literally means dry, but in Champagne it refers to a champagne with a dosage level of between 17 and 35 grams of sugar per litre.

 

Demi-Sec

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

- Besserat de Bellefon Cuvée des Moines Sec


Year of harvest

Non Vintage (NV)

Most champagnes are non-vintage. This means the wine will have been created from a blend across several years. 

Try:

- Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label Non-Vintage

 Vintage

Once every three or fours years there is a year where growing conditions are such that the wine produced is even better. The champagne houses will declare this a 'vintage' year. The wine created from that year needs to be 100% from the harvest that year, then aged for at least three years in the cellar. Thus vintage champagnes are special, cost a little more, and are usually known for their taste complexity and intensity of flavours.

Try:

- Dom Perignon 08 Vintage 

Grapes used in champagne

Blanc de Blancs 

This style of champagne is made up of 100% chardonnay grapes. 

Try:

Ruinart Blanc de blancs

Billecart-Salmon Grand Cru Blanc de blancs

Blanc de Noirs & Pinot Dominant Champagne

Blanc de Noirs is champagne made using the two black-skinned grapes; Pinot Noir and Meunier or a mixture of the two. 

Try:

Palmer & Co. Blanc de Noirs

Rosé & Saignée Rosé

There are two methods that determine which 50 shades of pink will be produced in each bottle. The first is Rosé de saignée, which means to bleed. The second is rosé d'assemblage - the blending of white and red wine. Neither one is better than the other – they are just different, catering to all wine lovers.

Saignée in French means ‘bled’ and refers to the bleeding of juice from just bled red grapes

Try:

- Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé

Prestige Cuvée / Special Cuvée

As the name suggest, this is the finest Champagne that a producer makes, from the best grapes in Champagne’s best vineyards. 

Try:

- Ruinart Dom Ruinart '06|Vintage Blanc de Blancs

 Method of viticulture

Biodynamic

Created using an alternative method of farming focussed on stimulating the vitality of plants by applying up to nine different preparations mapped out according to the lunar Cycles. In order to be certified biodynamic, the producer must apply at least one preparation 500 or 500p and one preparation 501. 

Try:

- De Sousa Tradition Brut NV 

Organic & Sustainable

Organic wine is wine created from grapes grown at chemical free farms.

Huré Frères Insouciance Brut Rosé