Champagne Studies: Fun Factoids

You know that you are doing what you are meant to be doing when learning, researching and discovering are all fun!  And informative! And fun! Did I say fun??!!

I have had my head down and buried into my Master Level Champagne textbook and watching webinars instructed by the world’s’ leading champagne experts…not an unpleasant way to spend my time.


So far, the instuctor I am most appreciative of is Essi Avellan – Finland’s first Master of Wine. She has taken time and care while compiling her research and presents her material with clarity and ease.  This makes her a superstar in my books and someone I respect very much.  Avellan did two webinars back to back on ‘Blending and Balance’ and ‘House Styles’.  I thought I would pass along some consumer worthy knowledge on to you, my thirsty readers…

  • There are three main grape varieties that go into making the majority of all champagne: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay – in that order.
  • Avellan has a kitschy way of relating to the style of wine each of these grapes create: Chardonnay – skinny, crisp, linear: Kate Moss.  Pinot Noir – structured, muscular, powerful: Serena Williams.  Pinot Meunier – soft, round, voluptuous: Marilyn Monroe.
  • Moët & Chandon is the most popular champagne according to world revenue sales.  It is reductive in style, which means it is fresh, light, fruity and approachable.
  • Veuve Clicquot is the second most popular champagne house.  In contrast, it is more oxidative in style.  This means it is structured, complex and uses more reserve (aged) wine in the blend.
  • Currently, there are 349 champagne houses.
  • A ‘Brut NV’ ( non-vintage ) is considered the house style.  80 – 90% of all production goes into crafting the Brut NV.  This is the flagship wine that the house is most known for – for example: Yellow Label Veuve Clicquot Brut NV shown below.0001056_veuve-clicquot-brut
  • I love Chardonnay  – it is absolutely my favourite grape variety on earth, hands down. However, it seems the champagne house styles I prefer are Pinot Noir dominant…Bollinger, Piper-Heidsieck and Lanson.13ca3992-3a09-475b-88fc-226daf54ecfb
  • Some champagne houses, like Moët & Chandon, can have up to 800 base wines to start with and choose from. These, then, are crafted into approximately 80 pre-blend wines – from these pre-blend wines, the final wine is created.  A huge amount of work for the Chef de Caves (cellarmaster).
  • The amount of residual sugar in Brut champagne is decreasing – hurray! Historically, the legal limit was 15 grams per litre for Brut.  Now, it is 12 grams but most champagne houses use less: between 9 and 10.5 grams per litre seems to be the new norm.

What is your favourite champagne?  Do you agree with Avellan’s female icon matches for the grape varieties?

I have my final exam scheduled for early February so, please bare with me if I inundate you with champagne information over the next few months!