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What Are the Different Types of Champagne?

J.M. Densing
J.M. Densing

There are several different types of champagne available for consumption, and, although they all share certain qualities, there are significant differences between the types. One of the ways to classify the different types of champagne is by vintage, which is determined by the year that the grapes were produced. Champagne is also classified according to how sweet it is, ranging from the dry "brut" which is less sweet, to the sweetest variety known as "doux." Champagne can also be categorized the type of grape used, for example white versus black. It should also be noted that true champagne is produced in the Champagne region of France, and when it's produced elsewhere it is actually sparkling wine.

When discussing types of champagne and other wines, the term "vintage" is often used. Vintage simply refers to the year in which the grapes that were used in the creation of the wine were grown; in reference to the champagne type, it is possible to have "vintage" or "non-vintage." A vintage champagne is made from the same year grapes, which often results in a higher level of quality. Prestige cuvee refers to the very highest quality champagne, which is usually created using the same vintage, although it can be blended from a variety of vintages. Non-vintage champagne is created using wines produced from grapes grown in different years that are blended together.

Glass of white champagne.
Glass of white champagne.

Another way to categorize the various types of champagne is the level of dryness, which is inversely related to sugar content and sweetness. The less sweet a champagne tastes, the dryer it is said to be. Dry champagne is generally considered to be preferable to the sweet varieties. The dry champagnes are referred to as brut and the driest type made is called brut natural. Sweet varieties are referred to as sec, or demi sec for sweeter ones, and the sweetest type is known as doux.

People drinking champagne.
People drinking champagne.

Champagne can also be classified by the type of grapes used in its creation. When a white champagne is produced using black grapes it is called blanc de noirs, which means "white of blacks" in French. This type is very rare. More common is blanc de blanc, meaning white of whites, which is produced using white Chardonnay grapes, and has a delicate, light flavor. Another type is "rose champagne," which is often pink in color, and is made using small amounts of red wine blended with the white to produce a sweeter taste.

Sparkling wine.
Sparkling wine.

True champagne is produced in the Champagne region of France using a specific process known as methode Champagnoise that requires it to be fermented twice and creates the bubbles. When it is produced in other areas, it is technically called sparkling wine, even if the same method is used. No matter where it is produced, it is a popular beverage, especially for special occasions. Given the numerous varieties available, most people are able to find a type they enjoy.

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Discussion Comments


@Axeleye - I didn't know that "sparkling wine" was another name for champagne either. It's amazing what you can learn from simple research.

@Axeleye - Though I don't know the similarities between the champagne-making and wine-making process, I can answer your second question. Carbonation is usually added to the champagne during the fermentation process. In fact, did you know that carbonation is used in a lot of beverages (especially soft drinks)? That's what causes the sparkling and/or bubbling.

I never knew that champagne is referred to as "sparkling wine" if not produced in Champagne, France. Is the champagne-making process similar to wine? At what point is the carbonation added? Do different types of champagne "age" for months or years, as with wine?
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      The less sweet a champagne is, the dryer it is said to be.