The different grape varieties from the Champagne area
Champagne is an iconic French wine. Highly appreciated abroad, this sparkling wine is a luxury product which adorns festive tables. Weddings, birthdays, christenings and more: champagne is the essential beverage for all celebrations and major events. You might have already tasted it but know nothing of its secrets. For example, do you know that there are different grape varieties from the Champagne area that can be used to produce champagne? If you don’t know, then Sparkling Tours gives you all the information you need to shine at the next tasting!
3 main grape varieties at the root of champagne production
First, you should know that there are different grape varieties from the Champagne area. However, remember that the production of champagne is mainly made from three grape varieties, none other than pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot meunier. In the winegrowing sector, a grape variety is also known as a vine variety. 12 main grape varieties are listed in France and no fewer than 10,000 grape varieties worldwide. That being said, just 13 occupy a third of the wine growing areas.
But let’s get back to the Champagne area with its 3 dominant grape varieties plus some forgotten ones.
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Single or multi-varietal champagnes
Know that among different grape varieties from the Champagne area, a champagne can be produced from a single grape variety: chardonnay for a Blanc de Blancs, pinot noir or pinot meunier for a Blanc de Noirs, for example. However, several grape varieties can also be combined to produce a vintage. Indeed, some bottles are a blend of pinot noir, chardonnay, and pinot meunier.
This is the case of the Cordon Rouge vintage from Mumm, which is composed of 45% pinot noir, 30% chardonnay, and 25% pinot meunier. Of course, the proportions can vary from one vintage to another.
As you may imagine, the composition of the champagne influences the aromas. Let’s get more specific about these three dominant grape varieties and their characteristics!
As its name suggests, the pinot noir produces black-skinned but white-fleshed grapes. This variety is easily recognizable thanks to its small-sized bunches.
Note that this grape variety covers 38% of the Champagne vineyards. This makes it the most widespread and commonly used grape variety in the Champagne area. For your general knowledge, remember that Alsace and Burgundy also cultivate this variety.
Aromatically, the pinot noir offers fruity notes such as blackberry, cherry, and raspberry but can also spark licorice and cinnamon aromas.
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Covering 32% of the vineyard in the Champagne area, the pinot meunier is the second most present grape variety in the area. This type of vine is easily recognizable by its leaves which are covered in a fine pale fuzz.
As far as the aromas are concerned, this grape variety brings fruity flavors such as apple, raspberry, and even redcurrant.
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Representing 30% of the Champagne vineyards, the chardonnay is a combination of pinot noir and gouais blanc. It is a white grape variety which produces spaced and golden grapes (visible color during the veraison).
This variety offers floral aromas but also citrus notes. The chardonnay can also result in perceivable mineral notes.
Rare and forgotten grape varieties
Besides the three main grape varieties, others are authorized for champagne production. We are referring to arbane, pinot blanc, pinot gris, and petit mesclin. That being said, these varieties cover less than 0.3% of the agricultural land which demonstrates how little they are used.