CHAMPAGNE - THE LABEL
Champagne - The Labels
Champagne can be one of the most wonderful drinks in the world, or it can be a disappointment. So, how do you tell what to look for on the label, to ensure you get a good quality one?
Firstly, is to look for what village the grapes were grown in. More about this in the Crus section.
Second, look for just two letters, which describe what sort of company is producing the wine:
NM: Négociant manipulant - These companies (including the majority of the larger brands) buy grapes and make the wine
CM: Coopérative de manipulation - Co-operatives that make wines from the growers who are members, with all the grapes pooled together
RM: Récoltant manipulant (Also known as Grower Champagne) - A grower that also makes wine from its own grapes (a maximum of 5% of purchased grapes is permitted). Note that co-operative members who take their bottles to be disgorged at the co-op can now label themselves as RM instead of RC.
SR: Société de récoltants - An association of growers making a shared Champagne but who are not a co-operative
RC: Récoltant coopérateur - A co-operative member selling Champagne produced by the co-operative under its own name and label
MA: Marque auxiliaire or Marque d'acheteur - A brand name unrelated to the producer or grower; the name is owned by someone else, for example a supermarket
ND: Négociant distributeur - A wine merchant selling under his own name
There is a common misconception regarding the use of the word 'vintage'. Most people assume it means an 'old' Champagne, which we therefore assume will be of great quality and thus more expensive.
In fact, the term 'vintage' simply means that ALL of the grapes used in that bottle of Champagne were grown in the same year. So, if it is a 'vintage' Champagne, you should also see what year the grapes were grown.
Clearly then, a 'non-vintage' Champagne is thus not from grapes grown in a single year. In other words, it is a blend of grapes grown in various different years.