Champagne labels sometimes indicate: "blanc de blancs", or "blanc de noirs". The "blancs" and the "noirs" are grapes. The "blanc de blancs" champagnes draw their characters from Chardonnay, a white grape variety; the "blanc de noirs" champagnes are made from black grape varieties, Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier.
In Champagne, three major grape varieties are cultivated:
Most champagnes come from black and white grapes assembled in variable proportions: 50-50 or two thirds/one third.
- Pinot Noir : black grape variety
- Pinot Meunier: black grape variety
- Chardonnay: white grape variety (about 30% of the vineyard)
The “blancs de blancs” are champagnes made exclusively from white grapes, chardonnay in most cases (nowadays we sometimes find the mention "Chardonnay" on the label). Their robe is generally less golden, paler than that of the “Blancs de noirs”.
White wine can be made from black grapes. Indeed, only the skin of the grape berries contains colouring pigments. To obtain white juice, bunches of black grapes must be pressed without waiting (direct pressing), both quickly and delicately. No maceration of the skins, no colour.
“Blancs de blancs” and “Blancs de noirs” differ in their aromas and flavours:
-“Blancs de noirs”: a powerful, with aromas of yellow fruits (peach, mirabelle plum) or red fruits.
- “Blancs de blancs”: lively, with aromas of citrus fruits, white flowers, white fruits (white peach, green apple).
These two types of champagne do not go well with the same dishes:
The liveliness of “Blancs de blancs” is marvellous as an aperitif, with seafood, and with white meats for the most powerful. The power and roundness of the “blancs de noirs” makes them ideal for hot starters, white meats and poultry. However, there are some rather lively “blancs de noirs” (young wines with lower dosage...).
Champagne « blanc de blancs »: freshness and finesse
The white of the whites comes only from the chardonnay whose grapes are white. This grape variety covers 27% of the Champagne vineyard, mainly south of Epernay, on the slopes of this relief aptly named the Côte des Blancs. Literally, the “blanc de blancs” is a white champagne vinified from white grapes, in the same way that the “blancs de noirs” are white champagnes produced only from black grapes (pinot noir or Pinot Meunier).
These “blanc de blancs” cuvées, which exhale buttery and brioche notes, enjoy greater prestige than the brut wines. They are renowned for their delicacy and elegance. For a long time, they were considered to be the finest and freshest on the market. In recent years, there has been a growing trend towards extra-brut vintages, with very low sugar content, which also offer freshness and finesse.
Prestigious cuvées in “blanc de blancs”, but also in blends or in “blanc de noirs”.
Among the prestige vintages of the great Houses, the whites of whites occupy a place of choice with the Cristal de chez Roederer or the Comtes de Champagne de Taittinger, but they are not the only ones. The mythical Dom Pérignon cuvée or Pol Roger's Winston Churchill cuvée are blends, for example.
The most expensive champagne in the world, the Clos d'Ambonnay de Krug is a “blanc de noirs” made only from Pinot Noir.