Glossary of Champagne Terms

Assemblage putting together blend of different wines and/or years

Autolysis bi-chemical process during which yeast cells are broken down

Barrique small oak barrel of 225 or 228 litres as typically used in Bordeaux and Burgundy respectively

Bottle-age the amount of time a wine spends in bottle before it is consumed, such ageing has a mellowing effect

Champenois the people of Champagne

Chef de Cave (s) literally the cellarmaster and typically the winemaker, chief blender

Co-operative-manipulante CM a co-operative making and selling champagne

Cru literally ‘growth’ as in premier cru (first growth) refers to a specific commune or village

Cuvée the juice from the first and best pressing of the grapes, or a champagne blend

Crayère Gallo-Roman chalk pit dug out for building materials now used as cellars

Dégorgement disgorging, removal of the deposit that forms in a champagne bottle after the secondary fermentation is complete

Demi-muid large wooden barrel mostly made of oak of around 600 litres capacity

Dosage liqueur typically made from mature wine and sugar added to a bottle of champagne when it is disgorged and expressed in grams of sugar per litre

Échelle des crus literally ‘ladder of growths’ expressed on a percentile scale whereby all 318 crus are assessed and given a rating of between 80% (the lowest) and 100% (the highest) for the 17 grands crus

Foudre large wooden cask

Grand(s) cru(s) the top growths, best vineyards, there are 17 in Champagne all rated 100% on the Échelle des crus

Gyropalette computerised riddling (remuage) system in metal cube-shaped container typically holding 500 bottles

Lees sediment typically made from dead yeast cells which fall to the bottom of the barrel or tank in the winemaking process

Lieu (x)-dit(s) named vineyard sites usually top quality terroir

Liqueur de tirage liqueur added to the still wine to create the secondary fermentation in bottle

Marc term for a single pressing of grapes 4,000kgs, amount that is processed in a traditional basket press

Millésime vintage

Monocru champagne from a single cru or village

Mousse stream of bubbles in a glass of sparkling wine

Mousseux fully sparkling wine with 5 to 6 atmospheres of pressure

Négociant-manipulant (NM) Champagne merchant who may buy grapes or wines (vins clairs) from others to blend their own wines, all the major houses are négociants

NV non-vintage

Pièce a small oak barrel, usually 205 litres in Champagne, 228 litres in Burgundy and 225 in Bordeaux

Premier(s) cru(s) a village or commune rated 90-99% on the Échelle des crus there are 44 such villages

Prise de mousse the creation of the mousse by the secondary fermentation in bottle

Pupitres wooden containers with holes in them into which the bottles of champagne fit and in which remuage takes place

Récoltant-coopérateur (RC) small grower without winemaking facilities who sends their grapes to local co-operative for vinification and can then sell the wine under their own label. Not a real growers’ wine as the grapes will be mixed with other producers in this process

Récoltant-manipulant (RM) grower making champagne from their own grapes although they are permitted to buy or swap with another grower up to 5% of their harvest

Remuage Riddling, the process of turning, twisting, shaking and gradually tilting bottles to encourage the sediment deposit to gradually settle in the neck of the bottle on the crown cap or cork. Process typically takes place in pupitres

Reserve wines older wines from previous harvests kept back for blending purposes

Taille juice from second or third pressing of grapes and thus inferior

Tête de cuvée best juice from the first pressing of grapes

Vendage harvest   

Vigneron wine grower

Vins clairs term the Champenois use for their still wines that have gone through their first but not secondary fermentation