Glossary of Terms
Champagne comes with its very own nomenclature. Here are a list of terms that commonly crop up...
The crisp or tart taste synonymous with Champagne created by the presence of Malic and Tartaric acid. This natural acidity is balanced with the presence of sugar and other aromas.
Aging en Tirage
The ageing of a sparkling wine during production 'en lees' to allow the prized flavour of autolysed yeast to develop in the wine.
Often most associated with smell, aromas can also be detected on the palate. These are the essences of a Champagne after fermentation. Artisan Champagne has particularly distinct aromas and flavour profiles.
Champagne’s made in small batches in individual vineyards by the same famers that tend the soil, grow and harvest the grapes. They are also known as ‘Grower Champagnes’ for this very reason. They are at the opposite end of the spectrum to the Grand Marques and they are the only types of Champagne we offer at Sip.
Autolysis is the technical term for yeast cells breaking down in the wine when the Champagne is ‘en lees’. It’s during this time that the Champagne develops its character and the all-important effervescence.
A 12 litre bottle for Champagne. Named after one of the three wise men who visited Jesus.
The percentage of wine that was vinified and aged in oak barrels.
Blanc de Blancs
Translated as ‘white from whites’. This is Champagne made solely from Chardonnay grapes.
The most common sugar concentration in Champagne. Brut (which rhymes with ‘foot’) will feature up to 12 grams of sugar per litre.
An ever-more common terminology. Brut Nature is dryer than Brut and is sometimes referred to as ‘non dosé ‘or ‘zéro dosage’, as these Champagnes contain no added sugar to balance their acidity.
The grape or blend that makes up the wine.
The official term for a standard sized, 75cl Champagne bottle.
The most common white grape used in Champagne, accounting for around 30% of planting in the Champagne region.
Cœur de Cuvée
This refers to the best quality grape must that is extracted from the grapes. It is taken from the very middle, hence the translation as ‘heart of the pressing’.
Coopérative de Manipulation
Denoted as ‘CM’ on a Champagne label. This is a Champagne made by a team of cooperatives that work together to create shared or individual blends.
In Champagne, cuvée can mean one of two things. It is the technical term first 2,050 litres of grape juice from 4,000kg of grapes – knowns as ‘a marc’ – and it is also more commonly used as the term for a particular blend of Champagne produced by a specific Maison or vineyard.
The process of extracting dead yeast deposits or ‘lees’ after secondary fermentation. This is achieved by dipping the neck of the bottle into frozen brine to form an ice plug of yeast which is then removed from the bottle before the bottle is re-sealed with a cork.
A decidedly sweet Champagne that can feature anything from 32 to 50 grams of sugar per litre.
Following disgorging, a portion of sugar and wine known as ‘liqueur d’expedition’ is added to the bottle before corking a Champagne. This is often undertaken to counteract high acidity for a smooth and harmonious blend.
The sweetest type of Champagne on the scale, consisting of anything more than 50 grams of sugar per litre.
A dry Champagne that features no more than 6 grams of sugar per litre.
Somewhat confusingly extra dry is actually a sweeter version of Champagne, featuring 12-17 grams of sugar per litre.
A two-stage process in Champagne. The juice is first fermented in steel or oak vats to produce alcohol from the yeast. It is then subsequently fermented in the bottle in order to allow the added yeast and sugar to create the effervescence.
The traditional term for a half bottle of Champagne – 37.5cl.
The top 17 villages in Champagne, recognised for their exceptional grapes and Champagne.
The most famous Champagne brands that make up a union of Champagne makers.
The freshly crushed grape juice that contains the skins, seeds, and stems of the grapes. Grand Maisons often buy a large portion of grape must from a number of vineyards to create their own Champagnes, which are then labelled ‘Négociant Manipulant’ (NM) to denote this process.
See Artisan Champagne.
A 3-litre bottle of Champagne. Named after the founder of the kingdom of Israel.
These are the yeast deposits left in a bottle after fermentation. A Champagne is left ‘en lees’ during the aging process to create its own distinctive flavour profile.
Before corking, a blend of sugar and wine, known as the ‘dosage’ is added to the Champagne to balance the acidity.
Liqueur de Tirage
A combination of wine, yeast and sugar is added to the Champagne before secondary fermentation, which creates Champagne’s prized effervescence.
Perhaps the most famous Champagne bottle size. A Magnum is double the size of a standard bottle at 1.5l.
Literally ‘House’, the term is used to denote a specific Champagne producer.
A process whereby bacteria is added during fermentation, which introduces a creamier flavour profile to the wine.
Denoted as ‘MA’ on a Champagne label. This is used for Champagnes that have been exclusively produced for one client – typically a supermarket.
Millesime de Base
The age of the youngest wine in the bottle.
Mise en bouteille
The moût is the must or leftovers from the pressed grapes. This is often used to create a liqueur known as Ratafia.
The superior method of making sparkling wines as outlined and enforced in Champagne, which involves fermenting, aging ‘en Tirage’, riddling and disgorging in the same bottle. Méthode traditionnelle refers to wines produced by the same method outside of Champagne.
A 6-litre Champagne bottle. The name of the oldest person recorded in the Old Testament.
The second major red grape used for making Champagne, it accounts for 32% of regional production. Meunier has been historically less popular than Pinot Noir and Chardonnay but is enjoying a recent resurgence in popularity.
A term used to highlight a particularly promising vintage.
The technical name for the wire cage that, along with a metal plaque, holds the Champagne cork in place.
A 15-litre Champagne bottle. Named after Nebuchadnezzar, the king to conquer Jerusalem.
Denoted as ‘ND’ on a Champagne label. A distributor buys in finished bottles of Champagne and labels them on their own premises.
Denoted as ‘NM’ on a Champagne label. Perhaps the most common to come across, as all of the big Champagne Houses belong in this category. It refers to a person or legal entity that buys in the grapes and/or grape must to make Champagne on their own premises and sell it under their own label.
See Brut Nature.
A French term for Champagne’s tiny bubbles, that literally translates as ‘pearling’.
A portion of wine from each vintage is stored and these reserves are added to non-vintage blends to achieve consistency.
The most planted grape in Champagne, accounting for approximately 38% of the region’s production. A notoriously fragile grape, with a long maturity, it is prized as More fruit-forward that Pinot Meunier.
The metal capsule that covers a cork, which is held in place by the Muselet.
A rung down from Grand Cru, these 42 villages, nonetheless, produce an exceptional quality Champagne.
Denoted as ‘RC’ on a Champagne label, this refers to a type of cooperative where a number of independent producers group together to produce Champagne under a single label.
Denoted as ‘RM’ on a Champagne label. A Récoltant-Manipulant is a type of producer that tills the soil, plants their own vines, grows the grapes and bottles and sells their own Champagne. The majority of our wines are made in this way.
A 4.5 litre bottle of Champagne. Named after the first king of Judea.
Remuage / Riddling
A process undertaken during fermentation, where the ‘sur pointe’ bottles are turned to ensure the ‘lees’ fall towards the bottle’s neck.
The process of creating rosé wine. The grape skins are allowed to macerate in the juice for a period of time, imparting colour and flavour to the Champagne.
A 9 litre bottle of Champagne. Named after one of the five Assyrian Biblical kings.
Translating as ‘dry’ from French, this is actually very sweet Champagne that contains between 17 and 32 grams of sugar per litre.
Société de Récoltants.
Denoted as ‘SM’ on a Champagne label. The term is used to highlight a family firm of growers that produce Champagne under their own label, using grapes sourced from a collection of family vineyards.
A word with two meanings. It is both the act of trimming the grapevines just after winter before it growing season and also the name for the second pressing of grapes, following the cuvée, that is considered to be of a lower quality.
A French term used to describe the specific qualities of a locality that impart a wine with unique flavour and character.
The final process when making Champagne – the corking of the bottle. This can be used to determine the vintage or base vintage of the wine.
Vins de Reserve
The percentage of wine that is from vintages other than the base vintage.
Champagne produced from the harvest of one specific year.
See Brut Nature.