Champagne labeling laws differ from other parts of France because the entire region falls under a single AOP, the protected term ‘Champagne’ and the wines are categorized according to styles rather than designations. Here the status of the producer is more important than the vineyard sites.
To distinguish between the numerous different styles, Champagne labels use a range of terms as described below.
* Level of sweetness:
o Ultra Brut – Bone dry or very dry
o Brut – Dry
o Sec – Literally dry but has higher sugar level than Brut
o Demi-sec – Medium dry
o Doux – Sweet
* Non-vintage: A Champagne made from a blend of wines from different years.
Some Champagne houses may use up to hundred reserve wines from previous years to produce a consistent house style.
* Vintage: A champagne made from a single year’s harvest. The label must show the year of the harvest.
* Blanc de Blancs: This term on the label means that the Champagne has been produced entirely from white grapes, in other words, Chardonnay.
* Blanc de Noirs: Refers to Champagne made from black grape varieties (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier).
* Rosé: This is often made by blending a little red wine with whites.
* Grande Marque: Means ‘Great Brand’. A producer may use this term but according to AOP rules does not guarantee quality or any style.
* Cuvée de Prestige: These are the top-of-the-range releases from the Champagne houses and may come with a vintage on the label. Some examples include ‘Dom Pérignon’ from Moët et Chandon, ‘Cristal’ from Louis Roederer and ‘La Grande Dame’ from Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin.
* Marque d’Acheteur: Means ‘Buyer’s Own Brand’. These are often seen on Champagnes sold within a retail or supermarket chain that sells them using their own brand name.
During the London launch last week of Dom Ruinart 2006 and Dom Ruinart Rosé 2004, Ruinart’s Chef de Cave, Frédéric Panaïotis said that supply was now being constrained by the amount of Chardonnay grapes it could source for the house – a specialist in Blanc de Blancs Champagnes.
“Everything is going well but my boss would be happier if we could get more Chardonnay grapes,” he began.
“Chardonnay is still less than 30% of the planted area in Champagne, and the price is not cheap for Chardonnay grapes, while buying vineyards is not easy, so we have to grow slowly: demand is faster than the growth we could have, but we are used to it,” he added.
Frédéric Dufour, the president & CEO of Ruinart, said that the supply of Chardonnay was limiting growth for the house, describing the grape as a “precious raw material” in Champagne.
“The hardest grape to get is Chardonnay, because even if you have Pinot Noir, you need Chardonnay, and Chardonnay is the least planted grape [in Champagne],” he said.
He then commented, “And for great Chardonnay you need chalk, and certain slopes, and the quantities of Chardonnay produced can be tricky – the grape is fragile because it blossoms early; so great Chardonnay is the most challenging to get.”
He also recorded that, despite the shortage, no more Chardonnay is being planted in Champagne, commenting, “Everything that can be planted to make good Chardonnay has been planted.”
Having observed that “everyone is after good Chardonnay,” he stated, “Good Chardonnay is the most precious raw material in Champagne today.”
Of the 34,000 hectares of vineyards in Champagne today, approximately 10,000ha are planted with Chardonnay, an area that has gradually risen almost 30% over the past 20 years.
Chardonnay is the least planted grape in Champagne, with more than 13,000ha devoted to Pinot Noir, and around 11,000ha given over to Meunier.
Ruinart is a specialist in Champagnes made from Chardonnay: Its ‘R’ de Ruinart NV contains a minimum of 40% Chardonnay; its Ruinart Blanc de Blancs is 100% Chardonnay, sourced predominantly from Premier Cru vineyards, while the Ruinart Brut Rosé is typically 45% Chardonnay and 55% Pinot, of which 18% is red wine.
Meanwhile, the prestige cuvée Dom Ruinart is made entirely with Grand Cru Chardonnay, predominantly from the Côte des Blancs (70%) and the remainder from the Montagne de Reims. And the Dom Ruinart Rosé has the same basis as the blanc, to which 15%-20% red wine (Pinot Noir from Verzenay and Verzy) is added.
The suggested retail prices for the current releases from Ruinart are as follows:
Dom Ruinart Blanc 2006 – £140.00
Dom Ruinart Rosé 2004 – £200.00
Under EPI ownership, Charles Heidsieck is planning to resurrect its prestige cuvée called Champagne Charlie, which was axed in 1985 when Rémy Martin bought the brand.
Champagne Charlie was launched with the 1979 vintage, and was named after the founder of the house, Charles-Camille Heidsieck, known as Champagne Charlie.
According Stephen Leroux, “Champagne Charlie will come back”… “We have made the wine, but it won’t hit the market for 5-6 years.”
Explaining why the prestige cuvée was discontinued, he said that Rémy stopped producing Champagne Charlie in 1985 after acquiring the house because the group included Krug, which was prioritized as the top-end Champagne in the stable.
“There was Krug, Charles Heidsieck and Piper [Heidsieck], and Krug was the prestige Champagne, Piper the commercial one, and Charles was supposed to be the niche and good-value Champagne, but there was no focus on it,” he recalled.
While Krug was sold to LVMH in 1999, Charles and Piper were acquired by EPI in 2011, under the new owner both houses have been undergoing a repositioning as the company, which is 100% owned by the Descours family, is bringing the houses back to their former glory.
But for those unable to wait for the rebirth of Champagne Charlie, Leroux said that the house is releasing historic vintages of the vintage-dated prestige cuvée from its cellar.
“In the meantime we are selling some of the old Champagne Charlie from five vintages, ’79, ’81, ’82, ’83 and ’85, and this will be under an oenoteque concept in very small quantities.”
The price of these late releases, some of which have already been disgorged, will range from £300 to £600 per bottle, according to Leroux, who also said that all late-releases direct from the Charles Heidsieck cellars would, from this year, receive a special label.
“We are coming up with new labelling for our older vintages, so whether it is Champagne Charlie, Blanc de Millénaires, or Royal Cuvée, there will be new packaging for these wines, which will be released in tiny quantities,” he said. (Charles Heidsieck released a Royal Wedding Cuvée to celebrate the marriage of Prince Charles and Lady Diana Spencer in July 1981).
This exhibition will showcase the modern and sensual paintings created by Lisa Cripps, Canadian Artist. Lisa’s artwork is a continuance of her creative life’s journey as she pursues an evolutionary life path. As she evolves, so does her art! Please visit her website to see all her different styles of art. The website is www.lisacripps.com .
One complimentary glass of wine or bar rail drink and complimentary light hors d’oeuvres will be offered.
We will also be auctioning off an Original Lisa Cripps Painting.
Live entertainment and art critics will also be present.
The event is limited to 90 lucky individuals. Please R.S.V.P. us at firstname.lastname@example.org with the heading ‘Art Show‘.
Wednesday November 28, 2012 – 6:30 PM – 10:00 PM
C House Cafe’ Lounge
70 Yorkville Avenue
Toronto, ON M5R 1B9
Tel: (416) 333-2220