The Art of Making Bubbles: Everything You Need To Know About Champagne

April 28, 2014

You don't have to know everything about Champagne to enjoy its bubbly goodness. As our friends at Fat Cork (the exclusive importers of Grower Champagnes) like to say, "As long as you can get the cork out of the bottle, you know enough!" But if you want to learn a bit more about this tasty beverage, check out this handy Champagne infographic. And, bone up even more with some useful terminology below.

Terminology to help you sound like a Champagne smarty pants...

Literally the “assembly” or the blend of grape varieties and/or vintages present in a given Champagne.

The process where Champagne gains its depth and flavor by aging with dead yeast cells (lees).

Base Wine
Still (non-sparkling) wine that is blended to make Champagne prior to bottling and secondary fermentation.

Blanc de Blancs
Literally meaning “White of Whites” blanc de blancs is a white Champagne made from 100% Chardonnay grapes.
Browse their Blanc de Blancs selections.

Blanc de Noirs
Literally meaning “White of Blacks” blanc de noirs is a white Champagne made from “black” grapes, either Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier.
Browse their Blanc de Noirs selections.

Brut Nature
Champagne bottled with no dosage (added sugar), also known as brut zero, zero dosage, or non-dosé. Brut Nature Champagnes are extremely high in acid. Some call them austere, we call them a great pairing with sushi.
Browse their Brut Nature selections.

Brut signifies a Champagne that is very dry: always less than 12 grams of sugar per liter. However, most producers also let the term Brut stand alone on the label to classify their entry-level cuvée.
Browse their Brut selections.

Literally “blend” cuvée refers to the blend of base wines that makes Champagne.

Literally “half dry” – but don’t let the literal translation fool you. A demi-sec Champagne has 33-50 grams of sugar per liter, it’s somewhat sweet.
Browse their Demi-Sec selections.

The process of discarding lees from a bottle by flash-freezing the neck and removing the temporary metal cap. Pressure from secondary fermentation causes the lees to shoot out when the cap is removed. All Fat Cork Champagnes are noted with the date of disgorgement which indicates how long the Champagne aged on the lees.

Dosage (pronounced like corsage)
Sugar (either beet sugar or MCR) mixed with base wine. Dosage is added after disgorgement to balance the acidity naturally present in Champagne. The level of dosage, usually noted in grams of sugar per liter, indicates the type of Champagne: Extra Brut, Brut, Demi-Sec, etc.

Extra Brut
Champagne with less than 6 grams of sugar per liter, it’s bone dry.
Browse their Extra Brut selections.

Grand Cru
A village in Champagne rated 100%. This rating refers to the historic quality of grapes and dictates the price of grapes.

Grower Champagne
Champagne produced and bottled by the grape grower and owner of the vineyard.

Dead yeast cells that remain in the bottle after secondary fermentation. They add flavor and complexity. The lees are removed when Champagne is disgorged.

Liquer d'Expedition
A mixture of base wine and sugar, either beet sugar or MCR, that is added to Champagne as dosage. It's the final step in producing Champagne.

Liquer d'Tirage
Wine, yeast and sugar added to Champagne right after bottling. The bottles are then sealed with a metal bottle cap and the liquer d’tirage prompts secondary fermentation – the creation of bubbles!

A 1.5L bottle of Champagne, equivalent to 2 standard bottles.
Browse their Magnum selections.

A naturally occurring process of malic acid becoming lactic acid. It creates soft buttery flavor, some producers reduce the temperature in their fermentation tanks in an effort to inhibit the conversion and maintain the Champagne’s natural firmness and acidity.

MCR (Moût Concertré et rectifié)
An increasingly popular, yet controversial, alternative for dosage, MCR is a concentrated and rectified grape must made with grapes from Languedoc. It has a more neutral flavor than the traditional beet sugar. Critics believe it bends the rules of terrior to use grapes grown outside of Champagne.

Premier Cru
A village in Champagne rated between 90 and 99%. This rating refers to the historic quality of grapes and dictates the price of grapes.

The process of turning Champagne bottles ¼ turn everyday while gently increasing the angle to settle lees in the neck of the bottle before disgorgement. Some producers riddle by hand, using riddling racks, or pupites. Others use a machine called a gyro-pallet to riddle a whole pallet of Champagne at once.

Pink Champagne made either through blending red base wine or maceration (see saignée).
Browse their Rosé selections.

Literally “to bleed,” these rosés pick up their color by fermenting the juice with its own dark skin (pinot noir, for example) for a short period of time. The saignée method usually produces a Champagne with a deeper color.

Tête de Cuvée
Literally, French for “head blend”, these Champagnes represent the top of the line from any Champagne house.
Browse their Tête de Cuvée selections.

Vin Clair
Still wine used for blending (see Base Wine).

A manager of the vines. Generally, the French refer to vignerons, not wine makers. Vigneronne is a woman manager of the vines.

Vintage (Millésime)
Champagne made from fruit that is harvested from a single year. Vintage Champagnes are only made during especially good years. Otherwise, producers will blend multiple vintages to create a consistent bottle year after year. Usually, only the very best fruit is used in a vintage Champagne.
Browse their Vintage selections.

And last but not least....

FC Club
Fantastic grower Champagne hand-selected just for you and shipped every 2 months! (We just joined!)
Browse their FC Club selections.