A Guide to Champagne’s Essential Styles


A Guide to Champagne’s Essential Styles

Wine Team New York |
There may be no wine region on the globe with better brand name recognition than Champagne.

This cool, northern appellation of France, which has been producing some of the world’s most famous wines since the Middle Ages, is virtually synonymous with bottle-popping celebration, sparkling Gallic luxury, and evocations of the high life.

But while Champagne might mean one thing to many people, in actuality, its wines can vary widely from one estate to another, and from one cuvée to another. Winemakers here have a vast arsenal of grapes, terroirs, vinifications, and vintages at their disposal, making for a range of styles almost infinite in nuance and complexity.

Many Champagnes are symphonic in structure, meticulous assemblages of wines from multiple villages, vineyards, and years, achieving incredible multidimensionality.  The iconic NV Krug Grande Cuvée, 170th Edition, crafted since 1843, is a blend of 195 wines from 12 different years.

Others are studies in purity and focus: the NV Savart L’Ouverture is entirely sourced from the Premier Cru village of Écueil, while the NV Ruinart Blanc de Blancs is made with just one grape, Chardonnay, grown in multiple villages.

Some of the most coveted Champagnes are vintage bottlings—expressions of growing seasons with timeless appeal, capable of aging and mellowing magnificently in the cellar, like the 2013 Dom Pérignon or 2014 Bollinger La Grand Année.

The soils and microclimates of different vineyards lend shade and color to wines like subtle hues of paint. Louis Roederer’s NV Brut Collection 242 represents chalk soils and sustainable growing methods, while the Charles Heidsieck Brut Réserve draws its supple power from the town of Verneuil and the Grand Cru villages of Oger and AmbonnaySavart & Drémont’s Ephémère 010 is a rare, extremely limited release, a selection of the winemaker’s favorite sites—each vintage completely different from another.

And of course, no collection is complete without a stellar rosé Champagne like the NV Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé, an icon in the category and a study in aristocratic elegance almost exclusively sourced from the winery’s village of Mareuil-sur-Aÿ.

You could spend a lifetime dissecting and analyzing the multitude of expressions from Champagne. As a window into the array of styles this legendary region offers, the selection of wines below is hard to beat.