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The Keys to Choosing the Right Champagne

Whether celebrating a special occasion, marking an important life milestone or simply sharing joyous moments with friends, champagne remains the ultimate symbol of elegance and celebration. However, choosing the right champagne can sometimes be overwhelming with the variety of brands, vintages and styles available. In this article, we will explore the keys to choosing a champagne and making each tasting an unforgettable experience. 

Understanding the different types of champagne:

Before making your choice, it is essential to understand the different types of champagne. Brut, extra brut, dry, semi-dry and sweet represent varying sugar levels. Brut, with its dry taste, is the most popular, but if you prefer something milder, off-dry or sweet might suit you better.

Know the grape varieties:

Champagnes are generally made from three main grape varieties: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. Chardonnay produces lighter, more elegant champagnes, Pinot Noir provides structure and complexity, while Pinot Meunier contributes freshness and roundness. Understanding these grape varieties will allow you to choose a champagne that matches your taste preferences.

 Consider the vintage:

Vintage champagnes come from a single exceptional year, which can give them greater complexity and depth. However, non-vintage champagnes are also excellent and reflect the consistent style of the champagne house, as they are made from grapes harvested over several years.

Know how to read the label:

The label on a bottle of champagne can provide you with crucial information. The term “NM” (Négociant Manipulant) indicates that the champagne house produced the wine, while “RM” (Récoltant Manipulant) means that the producer grew their own grapes. “CM” (Manipulation Cooperative) indicates a producers’ cooperative.

What is the difference between Classic, Premier Cru and Grand Cru Champagne? 

The classification of champagnes into "standard", "premier cru" and "grand cru" is based on the vineyards from which the grapes used to produce the champagne come. This classification is specific to the Champagne region in France. Here is an explanation of each category:

Classic Champagne: 
- Standard champagnes come from vineyards not classified as a specific "cru".
- These grapes can come from different regions of Champagne and are often from vineyards considered more ordinary in terms of quality.
- Although these champagnes are not associated with prestigious village names, this does not necessarily mean that they are of lower quality. Many champagne houses produce vintages that are not specific to a vintage and offer quality products.

Premier Cru :
- “Premiers crus” are champagnes from vineyards classified as premier crus according to a quality scale established by the official Champagne classification.
- This classification is based on criteria such as soil quality, sun exposure and vineyard yields. Villages classified as premier crus are considered to produce high quality grapes.
- Premiers crus generally offer more refined and complex champagnes compared to standard champagnes.

Grand Cru:
- The “grand crus” come from vineyards classified as grand cru, the highest level of classification.
- These vineyards are known for producing the highest quality grapes due to optimal conditions, exceptional soils and ideal exposure.
- Champagnes made from grand cru grapes are often considered the finest and most prestigious. They can display great aromatic complexity and a remarkable length in the mouth.

In summary, the difference between these classifications lies in the quality of the grapes and the associated terroirs. While standard champagnes can come from a variety of sources, premier crus and grands crus are specifically linked to villages classified based on the exceptional quality of their vineyards. However, it is important to note that champagne tasting remains a subjective experience, and there are exceptional champagnes in every category.

Choosing the right champagne can transform a simple occasion into a memorable moment. By understanding the nuances of different types, grape varieties, producers and vintages, you will be better equipped to make an informed choice. Whether to celebrate or simply to savor a moment of happiness, a well-chosen champagne will add a touch of elegance and refinement to every occasion. Cheers !

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