What Secrets Does Your Champagne Label Hold?
In this post I want to tell you about Champagne labelling laws and a few very important features of the label
Did you know there are 9 required statements on a bottle of Champagne? Depending on where it's being exported, there may be more. The Comité Champagne regulates labels in Champagne just like the TTB does in the United States. Here are some of the required statements on every bottle.
🥂The word "Champagne"
🥂The country of origin "France"
🥂The place where the Champagne was made (ex: Reims, Eperney, etc)
🥂The name of the Champagne House or brand (ex: Veuve Clicquot)
🥂The name of the winemaker or company name followed by an address (ex: Veuve Clicquot Ponsardin a Reims, FR)
🥂The volume (ex: 750ml)
🥂The alcohol content (ex: 12.5%)
🥂The official registration number, which also tells you the type of producer, read on to learn more! (ex: NM12345678)
🥂The type of wine as defined by the sugar content, read on to learn more! (ex: Brut)
Do any of these requirements surprise you? Or have you never noticed them all before?
🥂Who is really making your Champagne?
subtext: Save the small producers!
My favorite of the required statements on a bottle is one you've probably never even noticed. It is an ID issued by The Comité Champagne to every brand, consisting of a series of numbers preceded by 2 characters. For example: RM12345678 or NM12345678.
The 2-characters tell you so much about who made the wine! Here are the identifiers I find most important to know about. You'll see others letters but not too often.
"NM" indicates the producer is dependent on grapes grown by others, they buy the majority of their grapes. This is by far the biggest group and cover all your major big name Champagne Houses. Check your next bottle for "NM" preceding an ID on the back of the label (swipe to see how hard it is to find). And while we're at it, did you ever think about the term "Champagne House"? It's actually a regulated term! To be called a "Champagne House" a producer must meet minimum marketing and exportation criteria. They are all Négociant-Manipulants.
But not every Champagne producer meets these requirements!
My favorite category and one that is becoming more scarce. These producers make Champagne exclusively from their own grapes. Only 25% of all Champagne production falls in this category, less every day. And not much of it is exported.
🆘 Save the Récoltant-Manipulants!
The RM designation is my favorite, since it usually indicates a smaller producer, involved in production from vine to bottle. It's a special category, but their existence is under threat from a number of factors and many are leaving the business every year! Between 2008 and 2018 their share of Champagne sales declined 30%, many are getting out of the business.
The landscape of Champagne sales is turning more and more into a market dominated by a very few large Champagne Houses that are all Négociant-Manipulant. Worse yet the conglomerate Moët Hennessy Louis Vuitton (LVMH) owns 5 of the top 10 brands: Dom Pérignon, Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot, Ruinart, Krug, Mercier.
So next time you're buying Champagne, look for those little letters on the back of the bottle and consider buying one that has an "RM" on it!
🧁How sweet it is!
Another very informative bit of information on your Champagne label is the sweetness indicator. Champagne has a slightly complicated sweetness scale, not all labels are mutually exclusive. Brut is the most popular sweetness indicator, but also covers the most broad range of sweetness. Most people I have met tend to like drier Champagnes. If this is you, consider looking for "Brut Natur" or "Extra Brut". Or you can get really geeky and ask to know about the "dosage". That is the amount of sugar added. Check it out!
- brut nature 0-3 grams
- extra brut 0-6 grams of sugar per litre.
- brut 0-12 grams of sugar per litre.
- extra dry 12-17 grams of sugar per litre
- sec 17-32 grams of sugar per litre.
- demi-sec 32-50 grams of sugar per litre.
- doux more than 50 grams of sugar per litre
So next time you're shopping for Champagne don't forget to look for the sweetness and the identifier that will tell you who is making the wine!
Have questions or comments? Post them below.