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Classic: This is most champagne houses’ entry-level non-vintage wine. The flagship of the house and their most-produced line, it is a blend of all three of the champagne grapes (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier). Though the percentage of the blend will vary from house to house, each house aims to consistently recreate its style year-to-year by blending different grapes, villages and vintages. Pairing: Pizza or any food that is not too mild in flavor.
Blanc de Blancs: This literally translates to “white from white,” meaning white wine from white grapes. In short, this is a 100% Chardonnay style — the most elegant form of champagne. It is perfect for an aperitif, with light fare at the beginning of a meal, or for sipping at a reception. Pairing: Raw or cooked seafood with mild flavors (oysters, scallops, cod fish), vegetarian dishes or white meat.
Rosé: Rosé champagne can be made in two different ways. Saignée is the more traditional but uncommon method, requiring the contact of still wine with the skin of black-skinned grapes (Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier). It’s tricky, as timing is key to controlling the desired color of the wine. The second method is to blend still red wine with still white wine. Pairing: Think pink, orange and red—smoked and fresh salmon, tomato and watermelon.
Blanc de Noirs: This is wine made from predominately black-skinned grapes (Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier). It’s at the opposite end of the style spectrum from Blanc de Blancs — heavier and more opulent in style. Think notes of red fruits, mushrooms and brioche. Pairing: Pork and veal.
Single-Village: The majority of champagnes are blends of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier from several different villages, but this style of wine is made from grapes from one single village (e.g., Cramant or Chouilly). True terroir wines, they will show the distinctive flavors of the land.
NV: Non-vintage champagne is made from a blend of still wines from different years. It is a youthful style of wine, meant to be drunk and not aged. Pairing: Same as for Classic and Brut.
Vintage: This is wine from a single year, so it’s always from vintages in which the grapes showed exceptionally well. This is serious wine and will improve with cellaring - definitely a cuisine wine. Pairing: Older champagne can definitely stand up to meat. I like having vintage wines with steak.