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For this report on the best Champagne brands to buy, I tasted approximately 150 Champagnes both in the region and from samples sent in. My final selection of 102 includes 72 latest-release vintage Champagnes, spanning the years 1999 to 2015, plus 30 non-vintage Champagnes which represent the best that the region has to offer.
Yohan’s top-rated vintage Champagnes:
94 points and above
Yohan’s non-vintage Champagne reviews from this report are also included in The best non-vintage Champagnes to buy
Champagne grape varieties
In most instances, Champagne is a blend of the three key permissible grape varieties (Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier) sourced from diverse sites and from several different vintages. In the past, a number of grape varieties were planted in Champagne, but now the region focuses on just three:
The main grape variety, representing 38% of total plantings, Pinot Noir brings power and depth.
Occupying 31% of the total vineyard area, Pinot Meunier produces round, fruity wines with balanced acidity.
Accounting for 30% of total plantings, Chardonnay produces a floral, mineral style and very fine wines.
Pinot Blanc, Arbane and Petit Meslier are other varieties that are still authorised for Champagne production, but they are planted in tiny amounts.
Dosage by numbers
Doux: more than 50 g/l of residual sugar.
Demi-Sec: 32-50 g/l.
Sec or dry: 17-32 g/l.
Extra-Dry: 12-17 g/l.
Brut: 0-12 g/l.
Extra-Brut: 0-6 g/l.
Brut Nature / Non-Dosé / Brut-Zéro: No dosage, and with no more than 3g/l of residual sugar remaining from fermentation.