Grapes in Champagne

Champagne is often regarded as the most iconic sparkling wine region in the world, so much in fact, that it is often used interchangeably to mean all sparkling wine. This however, is not completely accurate, as true Champagne only comes from grapes grown in the protected appellation in Champagne, France. Many fans of Champagne know well the main grapes of the region like Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and, to a lesser extent, Pinot Meunier.

What may be surprising to some is that, in addition to these, there are actually 4 additional grapes that are permitted to produce Champagne.  These additional grapes in Champagne are: Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Petit Meslier and Arbane.  

What type of grapes are in champagne?

While many different grapes are used in the production of sparkling wines worldwide, there are only 7 permitted grapes that are allowed in the Champagne appellation. The permitted grapes in Champagne production are:  

-Pinot Noir

-Pinot Meunier

-Chardonnay

-Pinot Blanc

-Pinot Gris

-Petit Meslier

-Arbane

Pinot Noir is the most planted grape in Champagne, accounting for 38% of total planting. It is often thought of as providing structure and heavier aromatics to Champagne, and is often planted in the Montagne de Reims along with the Côte des Bar.  

Pinot Meunier accounts for 32% of total grape plantings in Champagne, and is often prized for being more hardy than Pinot Noir for cold weather. It is also prized for adding textural roundness to Champagnes, along with beautiful rustic and berry notes.  

Chardonnay represents 30% of total grape plantings in Champagne, and is the predominant grape within the Côte des Blancs, aptly named for its chalk soils. Within the Côte des Blancs, there are unique styles of Chardonnay that are produced, from light, elegant Champagnes in Avize, to aromatic wines in Cramant, to linear acid-focused wines in Mesnil.  

Pinot Blanc, the next grape in Champagne, although very rare, makes rich, textural Champagnes with floral notes with strong yellow-fruit tones.  

Pinot Gris was an extremely popular grape in Champagne, throughout much of the 18th and 19th centuries, but was phased out due to weak disease resistance and low yields.  

Petit Meslier is an extremely rare grape in Champagne with very few acres planted in France in total, mostly in the Marne. When used in Champagne, it is often a blending component due to its ability to retain high acidity even in hot growing seasons.  

Arbane exists in very small quantities in France, and not much is known about it, as even recent DNA analysis has not resulted in much information. There are only a couple Champagne producers that have this grape, and only one that produces a 100% Arbane cuvée.  

Is champagne made from red or white grapes?

  Champagnes are produced in a variety of styles using red grapes, white grapes or a combination of the two.  Some of the most common are:  

-Blanc de Blancs: (Literally “white from white”) Champagne produced entirely from white grapes

-Blanc de Noir: (Literally “white from black”) Champagne produced entirely from red grapes that is still white in color

-Rosé: Champagne that is produced with a percentage of red grapes that are most often simply pressed harder to extract some of the color from the skins. Can be either a mix of white and red grapes or entirely red grapes.

 

Tasting through the different grapes in Champagne

Ready to pop some corks and get at it? We have combed through our selections of Champagnes and have identified some classic examples of each grape in Champagne for you to educate your minds, palates and, most importantly, to enjoy!

Benoit Lahaye, Champagne Brut Blanc de Noirs, NV - $59.99 [Pinot Noir grape in Champagne]

A fantastic blanc de noir composed entirely of Pinot Noir. Lively acidity with a zippy red fruit core with textural weight and richness from the Grand Cru site of Bouzy in Champagne.

Christophe Mignon, Champagne Brut Nature, NV - $54.99: Pinot Meunier grape in Champagne

Another blanc de noir, but this one is 100% Pinot Meunier. Red fruit and floral aromas on the nose with classic Meunier structure with a dry mineral finish.

Guiborat, Prisme Blanc de Blancs Grand Cru Extra Brut, '13 base - $59.99: Chardonnay grape in Champagne

100% Chardonnay from three separate Grand Cru villages within the Cote de Blancs. This is a racy blanc de blanc that has a harmonious tension between bright focused acidity, and elegant aromatics and mouthfeel.

Andre Clouet, Champagne Rose, NV - $49.99: Pinot Noir grape in Champagne [Rose]

100% Pinot Noir rose hailing from Grand Cru sites around the village of Bouzy. Plenty of bright red fruit aromatics with perfect balance between precision and opulence.

Pierre Gerbais, Champagne Extra Brut "Grains de Celles", NV - $39.99: 25% Pinot Blanc (50% Pinot Noir & 25% Chardonnay)

An assemblage of 50% Pinot Noir, 25% Chardonnay, with the last 25% being Pinot Blanc, which makes this a very unique Champagne. This champagne is highly floral and aromatic in ways not normally seen thanks to the generous portion of Pinot Blanc, a must try for Champagne geeks!

Cheers!
Andrew Chen