Great Service begins with Selection. Whether choosing a Champagne for yourself or for others, it’s helpful to have a shared vocabulary along with the knowledge to express your personal preferences. By learning how to describe Champagne and refer to its styles, you’ll have the perfect bottle in your ice bucket.
Speaking About Style
Blanc de blancs White wine from white grapes.
Blanc de noirs White wine from black grapes.
Body An important quality of wine with a high extract content, giving weight.
Demi sec Semi-sweet.
Dosage Sugar additive.
Maison Champagne house
Mousse The bubbles and effervescence formed by the carbon dioxide in the wine.
Premier cru Wine villages or communes ranked one level under Grand cru. 90-99% on the cru scale.
Variety The specific type of grape used in the wine; the resulting wine, if comprising purely or predominately one variety, is called a “varietal” wine. Chardonnay and Cabernet Sauvignon are examples of varieties often bottled as varietals.
Vintage Tear of production. The majority of Champagne comes from multiple vintages, so does not bear a vintage date.
Speaking About Taste
Acidity An important component in all wines, acidity can lend crispness and life to a wine; acidity levels mark the difference between a wine that is bright and refreshing and one that’s soft or flabby.
Aroma The scent of a wine. White wines tend to have aromas of pale-colored fruits–citrus, peach or melon. Red wines tend to have aromas of darker-colored fruits–strawberry, cherry or plum. Bouquet describes aromas gained through the aging process.
Finish The lasting impression of a wine, the aftertaste.
Fruity Describes a wine with abundant or pronounced fruit flavors (often used incorrectly to describe sweet wine).
Speaking About Production
Assemblage Base wines that are blended into a cuvée.
Chef de caves Cellarmaster.
Cru Place of growth.
Cuvée The blend or the first pressing.
Dégorgement The removal of the sediment.
Fermentation Quite simply, the conversion of grape juice into wine. The yeast feeds off the sugar in the grapes, setting off a chain of chemical reactions.
Filtering The removal of yeast particles etc. prior to bottling.
Fining The process that separates certain particles from the wine, either by filtration or adding gelatine which attracts particles on its way to the bottom of the vat.
Grand cru The 17 highest-ranking villages.
Legs (or “tears”) Lines of liquid along the sides of the glass. These indicate a high content of glycerol, sugar or alcohol.
Malolactic fermentation The process which turns the hard malic acid into soft lactic acid.
Racking The process of draining a wine from one cask to another.
R.D. Recently disgorged.
Remuage The bottles are turned in different stages to collect the sediment before dégorgement.
Reserve wines Older wines that are used to give non-vintage champagne a more mature flavor.