Understanding champagne labels
10 Sep 2008 by Jancis Robinson

1. Look for vintage year. If there is none, the champagne is non vintage (NV) and usually a blend of two or more vintages.

2. Blanc de Blancs or Chardonnay on the label indicates that only Chardonnay and no black grapes have been used and the wine may be slightly austere. (Blanc de Noirs means that only black grapes have been used and the wine may be quite full-bodied.)

3. Look at the two-letter code which accompanies the code number of the producer.

  • NM négociant-manipulant, one of the big houses/maisons/négociants
  • RM récoltant-manipulant, a grower who makes his or her own wine
  • CM coopérative de manipulation, one of the co-operatives
  • RC récoltant-coopérateur, grower selling wine made by a co-op
  • MA marque d'acheteur, buyer's own brand, usually a made-up label

4. Sweetness levels:

  • extra brut or brut nature or non dosé, bone dry
  • brut, dry
  • sec, dryish
  • demi-sec, medium sweet
  • doux, relatively sweet