Thursday, 5 May 2011


Calling all beer swillers and cheap plonk drinkers! Don’t be afraid to drink the bubbly stuff – it makes you happy, it adds a touch of glamour and it’s delicious.

I know that it can seem a bit pretentious to order a glass of champagne when you go to a restaurant or a pub but I think we should abandon these ideas and start enjoying the high life a little bit more. Seeing as the effects of the recession remain relentless, let’s give the credit crunch the 2 fingers by taking a sip of the good stuff. I have put together a very simple guide to champagne so when it comes to making that order you won’t feel quite so clueless…

First things first, champagne can only be called champagne if the wine is made in the Champagne region of France; Reims and Epernay are the commercial centres of the region. There are only 3 types of grape used in Champagne: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.

Bottle sizes and names

Half-bottle- 37.5 cl

Bottle- 75cl

Magnum – 150cl (2 bottles)

Jeroboam – 300cl (4 bottles)

Methuselah – 600cl (8 bottles)

Salmanazar – 900cl (12 bottles)

Nebuchadnezzar - 1500cl (20 bottles)

What is a cuvee?

A cuvee is the term used to denote the different types of champagne. Here is a brief synopsis of the different types out there...


Vintage champagne is when the grapes are used from same outstanding harvest year. An outstanding harvest year is when the grapes harvested from that year are deemed good enough to make vintage champagne. For example 2000 vintage champagne means that all the grapes used to make it were harvested in that year, which was a year when the grapes were exceptionally good. Not every year is therefore considered vintage. Vintage champagne must be in bottle at least 3 years before it can be released.


When champagne in non-vintage, this means that grapes from various vintages have been blended to create the cuvee. Non-vintage champagne only needs to be in bottle 15 months before it can be released.

Blanc de Blancs

This is champagne that is solely made of chardonnay grapes. Translated it means ‘White of Whites’ deriving from the fact that chardonnay grapes are white.

Blanc de Noirs

Champagne made of only Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier, both black grapes, translated mean ‘White of Blacks’. This is because the champagne is white even though only black grapes have been used.


Rosé champagne is pink. This is because either of two possibilities: The clear juice of the black grapes has been left to macerate with the skins (this is called bleeding) or a small amount of still red wine has been added to the bubbly stuff.

Dosage (amount of sugar added)

Different amounts of sugar can be added to a cuvee. There are different names for different amounts of sugar. These 3 are the most common:

- Brut around 8g sugar per litre (can be up to 12g)

- Extra Brut 0-6g sugar per litre (cannot be more than 6g)

- Demi-Sec 12g or more sugar per litre

A little word of advice: Champagne doesn’t only have to be drunk on special occasions. It is in fact a natural mood lifter so if you’re feeling low or out of sorts just pop a cork, fill a glass and listen to the reassuring sound of bubbles popping as they reach the surface.

As Madame Bollinger once said: I drink champagne when I'm happy and when I'm sad. Sometimes I drink it when I'm alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it if I'm not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it - unless I'm thirsty.’

Cordelia Rosa

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