What do the world’s 10 biggest Champagne brands taste like?
20th December, 2016 by Patrick Schmitt
Want to know what the world’s biggest Champagne brands really taste like? Following db blind tastings using sparkling wine experts, we bring you the flavour profile for each of the 10 best-selling names in Champagne.
The most famous names in Champagne have been getting better
The following notes come from The Drinks Business Champagne Masters, which is a yearly Champagne-only blind tasting by sparkling wine experts that features all the region’s major brands and Grandes Marques.
The top 10 brands featured below have been ordered according to their volume sales worldwide during the course of 2015.
Importantly, these mighty Champagnes aren’t just creating blends that are impressive for their scale – these big-brand Bruts are consistently high quality too.
As db has said before, the most famous names in Champagne have been improving their winemaking, creating rounder and more complex blends by upping the amount of reserve wine, and extending lees-ageing times.
A more precise character to the Champagnes has also been observed, as these major producers have gradually dropped the dosages in their blends, bringing an important brightness and freshness to the finish.
Over the following pages we bring you a note on the taste and style of each Champagne, as well as 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.
The following tasting notes come from the Champagne Masters, which sees the world’s biggest Champagne brands judged blind by sparkling wine experts, such as Berry Bros & Rudd buyer Simon Field MW
Meanwhile, for those not familiar with the Champagne winemaking terms highlighted above and used 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.