Now that we’ve covered the history and geography of Champagne production, it’s time to get into the best part of this bubbly beverage: the taste! While there is a consistent flavor profile to be found in most bottles of champers, there are a number of different styles of this drink available—all with their own unique characteristics.
Types of Champagne
Far from being a uniform product, there are in fact six different types of Champagne. Various factors such as the length of the aging process to the types of grapes used are used to determine the type of Champagne.
Non-Vintage: These are the most commonly produced types of Champagne, and the most traditional. These wines are aged for at least 2 years and are comprised of a blend of grapes. They are known for their consistency if not their quality.
Vintage: As the name suggests, these wines are aged for a longer period of time than non-vintage wines. Vintage Champagne is aged for a minimum of 3 years. As they are aged with the yeast in the bottle, these wines have a stronger yeasty flavor similar to beer. They are also fairly creamy.
Prestige Cuvee: This term denotes the best wine the producing vineyard has to offer. These wines are usually expensive and of extremely high quality.
Blanc de blancs: This term is used to describe Champagnes that are made using only white grapes. These wines tend to be fairly crisp and citrusy.
Blanc de noir: Yup you guessed it! These Champagnes are made using only black grapes. These wines tend to be richer than the other Champagne types with notable notes of berry fruits.
Rosé: Also referred to as Pink Champagne, this is made from a combination of red and white wine. These wines are sweeter with hints of strawberry.
Regardless of the category, pretty much all Champagne shares a few flavor notes and aromas. The dominant flavor of Champagne is citrus fruit; also expect hints of lemon, orange, and citrus zest. Other fruit notes include peach and cherry. In addition to the fruit flavors, many Champagnes have hints of almond and a notable “toasty” taste.
While often served as an aperitif, the inherent dryness and crisp notes of Champagne make it an ideal pairing with shellfish and other light proteins.
Sweet vs dry
During the last step of the producing process, a final amount of sugar is sometimes added to the Champagne. The amount of sugar added during this process determines the dryness or sweetness of the resulting drink. All Champagne bottles list the sweetness level on the label. However, to make your life easier, here’s how the sweetness terms are determined.
Brut Nature: This is the driest option available. No sugar is added to these bottles during the dosage process. Proceed with caution as these bottles are extremely dry and acidic.
Extra Brut: These contain only a small amount of sugar and are still extremely dry.
Brut: This is the most commonly produced Champagne. About 6 grams per liter are added during the dosage process. When people talk about dry Champagne this is usually what they are referring to.
Extra Dry: This has more sugar (about 12 grams per liter) than Brut but it’s still pretty dry. At this point, the fruit flavors will start to become more pronounced.
Dry: Despite the name, these Champagnes are fairly sweet.
Demi-Sec: These Champagnes are quite sweet and are best when drunk with desserts.
Doux: The sweetest Champagne available. At this point, the Champagne almost starts to resemble a fortified wine.