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Champagne Grape Varieties

The grapes of Champagne are primarily black. About two-thirds of the vineyards grow black grapes. However, although the skins are black, the juice is white. The chief grape is Pinot Noir, which make all the finest red Burgundies. It has difficulty ripening in Burgundy, any further north in Champagne it almost never attains any great depth and strength of colour or alcohol. Which is fair because with the exception of pink Champagne, or the rare, non sparkling Coteaux Champenois, the idea is to produce a white sparkling wine. Very careful pressing of the grapes in enormous square vertical presses is the best way to draw of the juice as pale as possible. Even so, the black grape juice does have a fairly big feel to it, and a Champagne relying largely on black grapes is certain to be heavier and take longer to mature.

Example of the Pinot Noir Grape Variety

The other black grape is Pinot Meunier, which makes a softer, fruitier style, important in producing easy, forward wines.

Example of the Pinot Meunier Grape Variety

The white grape is Chardonnay of white Burgundy fame. This produces a lighter, fresher juice, and the resulting Champagnes are certainly the most perfumed and honeyed. They have been criticized as lacking depth and ageing potential. Not true good Blanc de Blanc has a superb, exciting flavour which is only improved by ageing.

Example of the Chardonnay Grape Variety

Guide to Champagne Styles