We bring you all the latest stats and facts about the world’s 10 biggest Champagne brands, ranked according to global volume sales.
Over the following pages is the definitive guide to the best-selling Champagne brands in the world, which we’ve ordered according to volume sales during the course of 2015.
We have placed a particular focus on the components of these major Brut Non Vintage blends, with information on the dosages, lees ageing times and proportion of reserve wines in today’s releases of the top 10 biggest Champagnes.
We have also brought you news on the latest product launches and marketing initiatives from each of the houses behind these big-hitting brands.
Champagne’s best sellers aren’t just focused on boosting sales volumes, and we’ve looked at quality improvements over recent years, motivated by the need to compete with each other, as well as sparkling wines from outside Champagne.
To improve the taste, Champagne’s major producers are focused on augmenting the quality of the grapes used to make their big-volume cuvées, as well as updating the winemaking methods. Bringing a notable increase in the complexity and depth of flavour has been the decision by these leading producers to increase the amount of reserve wine employed in their blends, along with a move to extend lees-ageing times – which brings more toasty flavours.
All the top 10 names have also lowered the amount of sugar in their blends since the start of the century, with an average drop in dosages of 2.8 g/l over the last 15 years – a measurable reflection of an increase in Brut Non Vintage quality resulting from harvesting riper, cleaner grapes, as well as producing richer, more complex blends through, as noted above, rising amounts of reserve wine and longer lees ageing times.
The following houses also seem to be adding to more high-value products to their range, probably because the majority of price competition in supermarkets centres on the entry-level Brut Non-Vintage labels. As a result, you’ll notice the launch of more upmarket expressions, whether they are sweeter Champagnes for consuming in bars and clubs, or more expensive versions for high-spending consumers, such as Moêt’s new range-topping variant with a €450 price tag.
A full analysis of each major brand in the top 10 can be seen over the following pages, while, for those not familiar with the Champagne winemaking terms used above and throughout this list, please see the definitions below:
- The dosage is a final addition of wine and sugar syrup that determines the residual sugar of Champagne.
- Reserve wine is an aged still wine used for blending with still wine of the youngest vintage before the combination of wines undergoes secondary fermentation in bottle to become non-vintage Champagne.
- Lees ageing refers to the practice of leaving the wine in contact with the dead yeast cells formed after the second fermentation in bottle. The interaction of the wine with its lees is called autolysis, and brings a creaminess to the wine, along with bready aromas and reduced astringency, depending on the time a wine spends in contact with the lees. It’s widely believed that four years contact is necessary for the bready aroma to be clearly detectable.
- MLF refers to malolactic conversion or fermentation. This is a process after the primary fermentation whereby malic acid present in the grape must, which has a very sharp taste, is converted to milder lactic acid by the successive action of various bacteria of the genera Oenococcus, Lactobacillus and Pediococcus. In modern stainless steel fermentation vessels it can be started by inoculating the wine with a bacterial culture, and stopped by fining, filtration or cold stabilisation. Some Champagne houses block the conversion, notably Gosset, Lanson, Alfred Gratien, Krug and Louis Roederer (although the last may allow a proportion to go through MLF, depending on vintage conditions).
- Brut Non-Vintage (BNV) is Champagne made from a blend of harvests with a dosage of less than 12 grams per litre (g/l) of residual sugar, although there is a 3g/l tolerance.