Champagne is a blend of grapes and a blend of years – in the case of non-vintage champagne. It is the skill of the wine-maker in the art of blending which ensures year on year consistency of this most fabulous product, despite the vagaries of the weather – and thus harvest and yield. It is the unique ability to blend (grapes and years) that allows creation of a house style year after year, when the raw product might be so very different.
Only three principal varieties of grape are grown in the Champagne region of France (which is the controlled production area) and thus only a combination of these grapes may be used in the production of wines from the Champagne region. Champagne can be made in any combination of the three main grape varieties, with Blanc de Noirs being black grapes only and Blanc de Blancs using only the chardonnay.
Pinot Noir is notorious for being the most difficult grape to grow and very sensitive to rot and disease. This grape gives backbone and structure to a champagne.
Meunier is French for “Miller” and the grape derives its name from the distinctive downy leaves, which make it look like the vines have been sprinkled with flour. A very popular grape and easier to grow than Pinot Noir, but not as long-lasting.
Chardonnay is arguably the finest white wine grape in the world and the dearest of the three. It imparts finesse and elegance to the wine. Champagne is currently the most northern region where chardonnay can be successfully grown.