The Go-To List for Champagne Shopping

Champagne Shopping
We all love to do a little bit of shopping; but unlike picking up those to-die-for shoes or that perfect shade of lipstick, wine shopping isn’t something that should be done on impulse. A good bottle of champagne is expensive, so want to be smart shoppers when it comes to buying that perfect bottle; and part of being an empowered consumer is being an informed one.

Just like the eyes are the window to the human soul, the bottle label is the window to the champagne soul; everything you need to know about the wine is written there for anyone to see—talk about wearing your heart on your sleeve! But if you don’t know what you’re looking for, all of that information can be really confusing—worse than watching a French film without the subtitles. So here is a go-to list for everything you need to look for on the label to make sure you’re making the best purchase possible.

1) The County of Origin. If it isn’t France, it isn’t champagne, pure and simple. Don’t be too bothered if you don’t see the AOC or AC stamp; sometimes these aren’t included, even on the genuine article.

2) The Brand or Marquee. This tells you who produced the wine—which can account for different varieties of flavor.

3) The Degree of Dosage. This will tell you how much sugar has been added to the finishing dosage—or in other words, how dry the champagne is. Common words to look for include: Brut Sauvage or Ultra Brut, or extra dry, sec, or demi-sec.

4) The Hometown of the Wine. This is the town in which the wine was made; so if you’re looking for a particular mixture of grapes, you can cross-reference which subzone the town falls into (like Cote des Blancs and so forth).

5) The Alcohol Content. This will be anywhere from 10.5-13%, but should be somewhere more around 12-12.5%. For vintage dated wine, it should be at least 11%.

6) The Volume of Liquid. Expressed in milliliters, this will range anywhere from 375 ml “half-bottles” to extra-large (and extra-rare) 18 L bottles. The 1.5 liter “magnum” size is most popular for its slow maturation rates.

7) The Trade Registration. Wine producers are given a specific registration number by the CIVC, and each brand owner will be given a different identity to be used on the bottle:

NM or negociant-manipulant is a shipper who owns vineyards and buys grapes, including many of the traditional internationally famed Champagne merchant houses.

CM or cooperative de manipulation is an association of growers who pool their resources and produce and market their wines as a collective whole.

RM or recoltant-manipulants are individually owned estate grape growers that independently produce Champagne using a majority (at least 95%) of their own grapes.

RC or recoltant-cooperateur are growers who use the help of a cooperative and their facilities to produce champagne.

MA or the marque d’Acheteur are third-party merchants who buy and commercialize champagne, but are not involved at all in the production.

The Èlaborateur. This may refer to a Champagne house, a grower, or a cooperative, but refers to whoever made the wine, and will be indicated on the label.

Now that you are armed with some knowledge on purchasing Champagne, go ahead and purchase some and enjoy what’s inside!

One of my favorite quotes and so very true…

“There comes a time in every woman’s life when the only thing that helps is a glass of champagne.” ~ Old Acquaintance



There are some key points of similarity between chocolate and wine. Both chocolate and wine are made from fruit (chocolate from the cacao pod) and (wine from grapes). The flavor and aroma yielded by both the cacao pod and the grape are a function of their rootstock, soil, climate, and weather conditions. And both chocolate and wine are both made from a blend of beans or grapes, each with distinct flavor profiles.

There is some skill involved in pairing the right chocolate with the right wine. And yes chocolate and wine do complement each other! Follow these strategies and you will be able to engage your palate to the fullest – just think of pairing the most exotic chocolate truffle with a glass of vintage Bordeaux!

White Chocolate

White chocolate tends to be mellow and buttery in flavor, making it ideal for Champagne, Sparkling Wine, Fruity Chardonnay, Orange Muscat or Sherry. These styles of wine will pick up on the buttery, fatty tones in the chocolate

Milk Chocolate

The classic milk chocolate pairing is Port; other considerations are lighter-bodied Pinot Noir, Merlot, Riesling, Muscat, Desert Wines, Brut Champagnes or Sparkling Wines. Watch out for the high sugar levels in milk chocolate as these can cancel out the fruitiness in reds

Dark Chocolate

Dark chocolate (50% to 70%) needs a wine that offers a slightly robust flavor such as Cabernet Sauvignon and intense, in-your-face, Zinfandel – this dark chocolate match results in an unparalleled tasting combination. Other choices are Pinot Noir and Merlot. Champagne and sparkling wine can handle dark chocolate around the 55% cocoa mark. Tawny or Vintage Port also offers a well-balanced pairing approach to dark chocolate. Note: some reds have their own chocolate notes – in taste and nosing

Bittersweet Chocolate

Bittersweet chocolate (70% to 100%) enters the bitter range with deep intensity. Chocolate gourmands adore this range of taste, so the wine should live up to it. Excellent choices are Bordeaux, Beaujolais, Shiraz, Orange Muscat, Port, Malbec, and Zinfandel


Champagne generally works well across the chocolate spectrum yet some Champagne are high in acid and can react poorly with your chocolate choice.

The perfect pairing balances sweetness, fruitiness, and acidity—and your own flavor preferences!
While it creates a challenge to find the perfect suitor for a box of assorted truffles; it also makes it fun to seek your favorite pairings.


• First take a sip of the wine
• Then take a piece of the chocolate and let the heat from your tongue melt the chocolate – avoid biting
• Followed by another sip of wine
• Engage your palate to the fullest, and
• Indulge in your senses

Liz Palmer,
Wine and Travel Writer

Valentine’s Day – Pairing Wine with Chocolate

When pairing wines with chocolate for Valentine’s Day match lighter, more elegant flavored chocolate with lighter-bodied wines; likewise, the stronger the chocolate, the more full-bodied wine.

White Chocolate
White chocolate tends to be mellow and buttery in flavor, making it ideal for Champagne, Sparkling Wine, Orange Muscat or Sherry.

Milk Chocolate
The classic milk chocolate pairing is Port; other considerations are lighter-bodied Pinot Noir or Merlot, as well as Riesling, Muscat, and of course Champagne or Sparkling Wine.

Dark Chocolate
Dark or bittersweet chocolate need a wine that offers a slightly robust flavor itself, with a hint of its own chocolate notes. Cabernet Sauvignon and intense, in-your-face Zinfandel perfect the dark chocolate match, resulting in an unparalleled tasting combination. Also Pinot Noir, Merlot, Champagne and Sparkling Wine can handle dark chocolate around the 55% cocoa mark. Tawny or Vintage Port also offers a well-balanced pairing approach to dark chocolate dessert or truffles.

My Pick for Valentine’s Day
Billecart-Salmon Brut Rosé, Champagne (Mareuil-sur-Ay, France) This non-vintage brut rosé is delicate and is impeccably balanced and guaranteed to have your taste buds singing.

Both Champagne and fine dark chocolate are two of life’s greatest pleasures. There is nothing quite like a popping the cork on a perfectly chilled bottle of bubbly and digging into a box of exquisite dark chocolate in front of a roaring fire with your Valentine while the snow falls outside.

Liz Palmer
Wine and Travel Writer