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A few champagne related bits and bobs...

Vineyard ratings:

Grand Cru: A village given a 100% rating for its grapes (which may only be for one grape variety).

Premier Cru: A village given a rating of 90% - 99% (which may only be for one grape variety).

Deuxième Cru: A village given a rating of 80%-89%. Initially, the system descended to 6th Cru.

Champagne house types:

Négociant-Manipulant (N-M): A champagne house that is allowed to buy grapes.

Récoltant-Manipulant (R-M): A grower that makes their own champagne.

Coopérative-Manipulant (C-M): A co-operative that can buy grapes.

Récoltant-Coopérateur (R-C): A grower with their own label where the wine has been made by a co-operative or where shared facilities were used.

Marque d'Acheteur (M-A): A large purchaser such as a supermarket or hotel chain that has its own name on the label but where the wine has been made by any of the above.

Production terminology:

Cuvée: A type of wine or champagne.

Assemblage: A blending of individual still wines.

Tête de Cuvée: The juice obtained from the first pressing of the grapes.

Taille: The juice obtained from the second pressing of the grapes.

Barriques: Small oak barrels used in vinification.

Fût de chêne: Small oak barrel used in vinification.

Demi-muids: Half-hogsheads, big oak barrels used in vinification.

Foudres: Large oak barrels used in vinification.

Vinification: The process of turning grape juice into wine.

Chaptalisation: The process of adding sugar to aid the initial fermentation.

Bâtonnage: The process of stirring the sediment (lees) into the wine with a paddle during fermentation. This is to help the wine develop structure and complexity.

Soutirage: Also known as racking, a method of decanting from one container to another during vinification to freshen and clarify the wine by removing sediment.

Fining: An addition of materials such as egg whites to suspend particles in the wine which are then removed by further racking.

Filtration: Filtering of a wine, normally following racking and fining to remove any residual active particles of yeast or lactic acid bacteria.

Rémuage: The process of 'riddling' or turning and gradually inverting the bottles to trap the sediment of dead yeast that occurs during the bottled fermentation stage. This can take place in Pupîtres or Gyropallettes.

Élevage: The period whereupon the wine rests, normally on its lees - élevage sur lies.

Pupîtres: A wooden stand with holes bored through to allow the bottles to be gradually turned and inverted during rémuage. This is the traditional method for conducting rémuage.

Gyropalettes: A large metal crate that is an automated means of completing rémuage far quicker than the traditional method.

Tirage: Bottling.

Liqueur de tirage: Addition of natural or cane sugar and yeast at the time of bottling to ensure a second fermentation takes place in the bottle.

Liqueur de dosage: Also known as Liqueur d'Expédition small quantity of reserve wines with natural or cane sugar added after the loss during dégorgement.

Dégorgement: Disgorging of the bottle to release the sediment of dead yeast that occurs during the second (bottled) fermentation stage.

À la volée: The method of disgorging by hand.

Ficelage: The ancient skilled practice of securing the cork in place by means of tying with string.

Sous liège: The traditional method of ageing the wine under cork rather than the more practiced method of using a crown cap.

MCR - Moût Concentré Rectifié: A concentrated form of grape must used instead of the liqueur de dosage, believed to be a more neutral as well as natural form of dosing the wine. Tests also show a slower rate of oxidation.

Malolactic Fermentation: Due to being produced in a cool climate, champagne is naturally very acidic. The acid formed is the sharp tasting malic acid. Malolactic fermentation is the conversion of malic acid into lactic acid. This can be allowed to occur naturally or be carried out artificially. The reason some producers opt to allow or carry out malolatic fermentation is to take the harshness that can be caused by malic acid away to produce a rounder, softer wine. Malic acid often gives the appearance of green apples whereas lactic acid gives a more buttery taste. Some top champagne producers prefer to avoid malolactic fermentation as they feel they can attain a more complex wine in this manner.

Soléra (or réserve perpetuelle): A technique of perpetual blending that builds up layer upon layer of flavours, vastly enhancing the taste profile of a wine. A number of containers (barriques or foudres) will be filled with wine and then consistently added to at regular intervals. The oldest of which is then used to produce the cuvée. The process is then recommenced ensuring a perpetually evolving wine. Once rare in Champagne, it is now a method used by a number of producers and houses. It can be a way of adding multi-layered reserve wines to a blend or for an entire cuvée, such as "Substance" from Domaine Jacques Selosse.

Saignée: This is the traditional method of producing a rosé wine where the black grape skins are left in contact with the white juice in order to taint it, thus producing pink juice.

Addition: Is the simple term used for adding red wine to the white juice to create a rosé wine.

Biodynamique: Biodynamic agriculture is a sustainable method of organic farming with a more concentrated ethos of respect for the relationship between land, vines and animals. It is said to accentuate the terroir character of its wines whilst also increasing the complexity and depth of flavour.

En Foule: The traditional method of planting vines in clusters, a practice largely stopped due phylloxera.

Enherbement: The method of leaving a vineyard un-weeded to allow a more natural environment.

Types of wine:

Millésime: A vintage wine which can only be made from one specific year which has been designated to be of a good enough standard.

Non-Vintage: A blend of wines from different years. This term must also be used even if the wine is a blend of vintage years.

Blanc de Blancs: A wine made only from white grapes.

Blanc de Noirs: A wine made only from black grapes.

Rosé: A wine made via either the saignée method or an addition of red wine to make a pink cuvée.

Brut Nature/Ultra Brut/Zero Dosage: A dry wine that has no sugar in the liqueur de dosage.

Extra Brut: A dry wine that contains 0-6 grams per litre in the liqueur de dosage.

Brut: A dry wine that contains 0-15 grams per litre in the liqueur de dosage.

Sec: A medium wine that contains 17-35 grams per litre in the liqueur de dosage.

Demi-Sec: A sweet wine that contains 33-50 grams per litre in the liqueur de dosage.

Doux: A very sweet wine that contains 50+ grams per litre in the liqueur de dosage.

Vins Clairs: Still wines produced following the first fermentation.

Côteaux Champenois: A still wine made under the Champagne appellation.

Rosé des Riceys: A still rosé appellation wine made with Pinot Noir from Les Riceys in the far South of Champagne. Semi-carbonic maceration is commonly used. 


Bottle sizes:

Melchizedek: A bottle containing 30 litres (40 bottles).

Primat: A bottle containing 27 litres (36 bottles).

Sovereign: A bottle containg 26.25 litres (35 bottles).

Solomon: A bottle containing 18 litres (24 bottles).

Nebuchadnezzar: A bottle containing 15 litres (20 bottles).

Balthazar: A bottle containing 12 litres (16 bottles).

Salmanazar: A bottle containing 9 litres (12 bottles).

Methuselah: A bottle containing 6 litres (8 bottles).

Rehoboam: A bottle containing 4.5 litres (6 bottles).

Jeroboam: A bottle containing 3 litres (4 bottles).

Magnum: A bottle containing 1.5 litres (2 bottles).

Bottle: The standard bottle size of 0.75 litres.

Fillette: A half-bottle.


Œnothèque: A wine library. Most houses will have their own œnothèque where old cuvées are stored, some are very extensive with wines as old as the late 1800's through to recent vintages that are no longer on general sale. Some shops also have their own œnothèque such as Cave des Sacres in Reims.

Clos: A walled vineyard. These are often used by a house to produce a prestige cuvée such as Clos du Mesnil by Champagne Krug, Clos des Goisses by Champagne Philipponnat, Clos St. Hillaire by Billecart-Salmon etc.

Lieu-dit: A small parcel of vines within an established vineyard. Lieux-dits in plural form.

Phenolic maturity: As grapes ripen, sugar levels increase and acidity levels decrease. This is natures way of making the fruit more appetising to animals such as birds who will eat the fruit and in doing so disperse seeds. Flavour molecules build as the the grape ripens. Phenols are complex molecules including tannins that are found in the skin of the berry and can contribute bitter flavours. As the grape approaches ripeness, the bitterness becomes less astringent. A grape that reaches phenolic maturity is likely to produce a well-balanced and flavoursome wine.

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