Champagne is one of the world's favourite wines. It is synonymous with celebration and is almost an ever-present at special occasions the world over. From weddings to state balls and the launching of ships, you will almost always find champagne. Although it has many imitators, and there are great sparkling wines from elsewhere in France and around the world, Champagne remains the premium choice for most wine lovers. Coming to grips with champagne classification is an important step into getting the most from this adorable wine.
Champagne classification by region
Champagne may be exclusive but it is still the largest wine AOC area in France, with almost 80,000 acres planted and more than 300 villages and towns known to be producing the wine. These can be divided into five main areas. Montagne de Reims is the area around the city of Reims, while Valee de la Marne encompasses many villages along the River Marne. Cotes des blancs makes champagnes with white grapes, almost all Chardonnay, while Cote de Sezanne is a lesser known region. Champagnes classification by region finishes with the newer region of The Aube
Champagne classification by village
In Burgundy and Bordeaux, classification occurs by vineyard but Champagne classification is different. Here, the entire village is given a classification. Every village is rated according to a 100 per cent score and then allocated a designation accordingly. The Grand Cru classification is given to villages scoring 100%, while villages achieving 90 - 99% are assigned as Premier Cru. Deuxieme Cru is the classification for villages scoring 80-89%. Among the top Grand Cru Villages are Ambonnay, Bouzy, le Mesnil sur Oger and Oger. The percentage score that each village achieves is reflected in the price they are paid for their grapes.
Champagne classification and styles
Only three types of grapes are allowed to be used in the production of Champagne and these are Chardonnay, Pinot Meunier and Pinot Noir. The types and proportion of grapes used will affect the style of the champagne and this is also reflected in the four Champagne classification styles. Champagne is a blend of these grapes and can use both black and white varieties. Blanc de Blancs uses only white grapes, while Blanc de Noirs uses black (or red) grapes. The final Champagne style is Rose, where the colour is a result of some addition of red wine or macerating in the skins of red grapes.