Champagne 101 Article -
Add a Comment

Champagne 101

Let's toast!

No celebration is complete without a Champagne toast. Learn about Champagne, other sparkling wines, and how to serve them.

Vintage vs. Non-Vintage Champagne

All Champagnes are made from grapes grown in France's northeastern region, the Champagne province. Most Champagnes are non-vintage: that is, they are made from a blend of grapes from different years, aged in the bottle for 18 months. Vintage Champagne is made with high-quality grapes from the same year; they must be aged three years before they are released.

    Champagnes from Dry to Sweet

    In addition to classifying Champagne as vintage or non-vintage, 6 classifications are used to refer directly to the Champagne's sweetness:

    • Brut: dry, less than 1.5% sugar
    • Extra Sec: extra dry, 1.2 to 2% sugar
    • Sec: medium sweet, 1.7 to 3.5% sugar
    • Demi-Sec: sweet, 3.3 to 5% sugar (Served as a dessert champagne)
    • Doux: very sweet, over 5% sugar (Served as a dessert champagne)

      Other Wines with Bubbles

      Sparkling wines made by the same process can't be called Champagne unless they're made in their namesake French region. Chardonnay and pinot noir grapes are the main varieties used to make Champagne, and they're grown all over the world; many regions produce fine sparkling wines that are somewhat less expensive and more widely available than French Champagne. Italian Prosecco and Asti, Spanish Cava and German Sekt are all delicious varieties of sparkling wine.

      As a side note: the small clusters of grapes sold in the supermarket as "champagne grapes" are just using the cachet of the name: they're actually fresh zante currants.

        Serving Champagne

        Chill the wine in the coldest part of your refrigerator. Open the bottle by twisting off the wire cage over the cork, keeping your thumb over the cork. Keep the bottle at an angle, with the cork pointing away from you. Grasp the neck of the bottle with a dry cloth; with your thumb over the cork, gently twist the bottle. You should feel the cork easing itself loose. Don't go for the dramatic pop: removing the cork should be almost soundless.

        Serve Champagne in clean, dry flutes--narrow glasses with tall sides--which show off the color and the fine bubbles while keeping the carbonation from dissipating. "Prime" the glasses by pouring a small amount of wine into the bottom of each glass, letting the foam subside before filling them fully.

          amy a 
          Nov. 21, 2009 12:05 pm
          i learned a lot just now thank you!
          Dec. 14, 2009 4:13 pm
          This was a very interesting rerport! I learned a lot. Thankyou!
          Dec. 17, 2009 1:12 pm
          thanks now i know what champagne i like!
          Dec. 29, 2009 5:13 pm
          I found some champagne bottles in the cabinet. Not sure how long they've been there. Does anyone know how long they're good for? Never been opened.
          Dec. 30, 2009 7:07 am
          Usually champagne is made to drink right away, but some keep fairly well. The only test is to chill if thoroughly, open it and taste... Wish I had your problem, I have to go buy some... Happy New Year
          Bonnye Ford 
          Dec. 30, 2009 7:42 am
          Where can I find champagne that is Demi-Sec or Doux? All my local stores carry is Brut... and I like sweet!
          Dec. 30, 2009 8:08 am
          Once a bottle of champagne has been open how long is good for when stored with a wine saver pump & refrigerated? How long is it good for when mixed in a punch?
          Nicole C. 
          Dec. 30, 2009 11:46 am
          Bonnye- My favorite champagne is Spumonte. I get it in Safeway, Raleys, etc. Any big store should have it. It's super sweet & fruity! Also mixes great with Orange juice for a Mimosa.
          Bonnye Ford 
          Dec. 31, 2009 8:51 am
          Thanks for the info Nicole C. Will look for Spumonte next time I shop!
          Jan. 3, 2010 7:17 pm
          There is also a Champagne that is called "natural". It is extremely dry. Is that the 6th classification?
          Jan. 10, 2010 5:13 pm
          Karen, I was wondering if anyone else noticed there were only 5 classifications listed. ;) I'd also like to know if "natural" is the 6th? I've never heard of it and have only ever seen Brut and Sec.
          Feb. 10, 2010 7:04 am
          I have a bottle of Dom I've had over 10 years still in the box. Has not been refrigerated. Is it still good?
          Feb. 15, 2010 11:23 pm
          thank you, i learned quite a bit. i always wonderd how to distinguish between dinner/dessert wines.
          Feb. 24, 2010 2:04 am
          Dear "What's for Dinner?", Champagne in punch will last throughout the night, but just like soda, it will be flat in the morning. You will still have the taste of wine in your punch, but not the fizz. If you want to store it in the bottle, don't use a wine pump!!! Wine pumps are for removing the air from the wine bottle to preserve it longer, in the case of Champagne however, removing the air is a big no-no because if you remove the air, you remove the bubbles. Try a Champagne stopper instead. They are available at any BevMo or stores similar and they work very well. I personally have one, but never have had any Champagne leftover to save, however in a restaurant that I worked at, I've seen a bottle still good after a week using this tool. Good luck.
          Nov. 5, 2010 1:15 pm
          learn a lot thank you..............
          Dec. 29, 2010 6:58 pm
          I am blown away on how much I have learned about champagne in less than 3 minutes! Thanks for the quick lesson! :)
          Dec. 31, 2010 6:11 am
          For anyone who wants to drink champagne on special occasions and you want a declicious champagne - don't go for the expensive ones try "Freixenet" - it's in a black bottle and easy to spot in the liquor store. I've tried them all and this one doesn't leave any aftertaste and is not sweet. And for only $9.00 a bottle, the best bargain ever. Try it - I cannot drink any other now. Muchy better than Korbel and I've never heard anyone who hasn't liked it. Enjoy !
          Elaine S. 
          Dec. 31, 2010 11:56 am
          Charles de Fere is another GREAT sparking wine!
          Jun. 8, 2011 4:20 pm
          Nancy I agree with you I love "Freixenet". I keep a bottle or two in the house at all times.
          Jul. 5, 2011 6:03 am
          Which champagne would you recommend for mimosa, I like sweet.
          Feb. 14, 2012 8:36 am
          @jessica - if you want sweet and can't find doux, then look for bottles that have "Asti" or "Spumante" or both. Also, muscadine/moscat grapes that are used in sweet wines will be labeled "Moscato" and guarantee you a sweeter taste.
          Feb. 14, 2012 8:45 am
          @jessica - BUT if you're doing mimosas you probably want a drier, cheaper sparkling wine since you're mixing it and not drinking it straight. FYI. @Karen & Juniper - re: "Natural" - is an EU sub-designation under brut. But is not a free-standing classification of sugar content itself.
          Feb. 14, 2012 8:48 am
          @karen & Juniper - oops! no, you're right. But as of 2009 there are 7 classifications.
          Dec. 29, 2012 5:19 pm
          Have learned soooo much in the last 3-4 minutes. Thank all of you ! Happy New Year
          Subscribe Today!

          In Season

          Not The Same Old Chicken
          Not The Same Old Chicken

          We have so many top-rated chicken recipes, you'll never run out of dinner ideas again.

          Slow Cooker Time Savers
          Slow Cooker Time Savers

          Imagine dinner making itself in the slow cooker while you relax or do other things.

          Subscribe Today! Only $7.99
          Subscribe Today! Only $7.99

          Delicious recipes, party ideas, and cooking tips! Get a year of Allrecipes magazine for $7.99!

          Related Videos

          Original Champagne Cocktail

          See how to make a simple, elegant Champagne cocktail.

          Kir Royale Cocktail

          See how to make a simple, sophisticated Champagne cocktail.

          Grampa's Brandy Alexander

          Creme de cacao, chocolate syrup and ice cream make a super-rich cocktail.

          Most Popular Blogs

          Read our blog

          Recently Viewed Recipes

          You haven't looked at any recipes lately. Get clicking!
          Quick Links: Recipe Box | Shopping List | More »
          Argentina  |  Australia & New Zealand  |  Brazil  |  Canada  |  China  |  France  |  Germany  |  India  |  Italy  |  Japan  |  Korea  |  Mexico

          Netherlands  |  Poland  |  Quebec  |  Russia  |  SE Asia  |  United Kingdom & Ireland  |  United States