Types of Champagne
When considering Champagne types, it is necessary to define Champagne. While true Champagne is wine made in the Champagne region of France using the méthode champenoise, a more common usage of the term refers to any sparkling wine made using the same method of fermentation.
Champagne and sparkling wines typically come in two major types based on vintage - non-vintage and vintage wines. Non-vintage champagnes are those that contain a blend of grapes from various vintages. Most estate bottlings of Champagnes and sparkling wines are non-vintage bottlings, making these the easiest to find and less expensive of the sparkling wines. Non-vintage Champagnes are designated with a NV on the label instead of a date.
Vintage Champagne and vintage sparkling wines contain grapes from a single vintage only, as opposed to a blend of grapes from various vintages. Vintage Champagnes and sparkling wines aren't made every year. Instead, they are made only during very good vintages. This makes vintage Champagnes and sparkling wines harder to find and more expensive than non-vintage Champagnes. Vintage champagnes have a date on the label.
Regular brut Champagne and sparkling wine is made from a blend of Pinot Noir grapes and Chardonnay grapes that are fermented using the méthode champenoise. The reason that Champagne appears to be a white wine in spite of the presence of Pinot Noir grapes is because the juice isn't left in contact with the skins for an appreciable amount of time.
Unless a sparkling wine or Champagne is designated otherwise, you can assume that it contains a blend of Pinot Noir and Chardonnay grapes.
Blanc de Noirs
A sparkling wine or Champagne that is made exclusively from Pinot Noir grapes is referred to as a blanc de noirs. It differs from a regular Pinot Noir wine because it is fermented using the méthode champenoise.
Blanc de noirs Champagnes and sparkling wines are typically light pink in color. Blanc de noirs comes in both vintage and non-vintage versions.
Blanc de Blancs
Blanc de blancs Champagne and sparkling wines are Champagnes made exclusively using the Chardonnay grapes. Many prestigious winemakers offer a blanc de blancs in addition to their other champagne offerings.
Rosé Champagnes and sparkling wines are made by adding a little bit of red wine (usually Pinot Noir) to the blend during fermentation or by leaving the Pinot Noir grapes in contact with the skin for a little while during maceration. Rosé Champagne is light pink in color.
Champagne and sparkling wines are further categorized by sweetness and sugar concentration in the wine. Brut, which is less than 12 grams of sugar per liter, is by far the most common sweetness designation, but you will also find Extra Brut, which has less than six grams of sugar per liter and Brut Natural (or Brut Zéro), which has less than three grams of sugar per liter.
Sparkling wines are Champagne-style wines not made in France's Champagne region. Most have similar types of designation to true Champagnes with regard to sweetness and vintage/non-vintage status. You can find many sparkling wines from around the world made in this way, including Cava from Spain and sparkling wines from the United States and Australia.
Prosecco is another sparkling wine. It comes from Italy and is made using Prosecco grapes. Most Prosecco is extremely affordable and non-vintage. Vintage Prosecco is available from a few wine makers.
No matter what type of Champagne or sparkling wine you choose, you're sure to find one that fits your tastes and budget. Choosing a good Champagne can make any occasion more festive. Cheers!