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What is the shade code for Champagne?

What is the shade code for Champagne?

Champagne is a light sparkling white wine that originates from the Champagne region of France. True Champagne is produced using specific grape varieties and methods outlined by French wine laws. The color of Champagne can range from a very pale yellow to a deeper golden hue depending on the grape blend and production methods. When describing Champagne shades, wine professionals often refer to ‘shade codes’ which provide a standardized nomenclature for classifying wine color.

Champagne Grape Varieties

There are three main grape varieties used in the production of Champagne: Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier, and Chardonnay. The relative proportions of these grapes in the final blend have a significant impact on the resulting color of the Champagne.

  • Pinot Noir: A red grape variety known for light color. Provides structure and body.
  • Pinot Meunier: A red grape variety similar to Pinot Noir. Also produces light-bodied wines.
  • Chardonnay: A white grape known for freshness and elegance. Contributes light straw colors.

Blanc de blancs Champagne is made exclusively from Chardonnay and tends to be the lightest in color. Blanc de noirs is made solely from the red Pinot grapes and has a deeper yellow or golden hue. Most Champagne is a blend of all three grapes, with the percentage of each determining the final shade.

Champagne Production Methods

In addition to grape variety, production methods also affect the final color of Champagne. Here are some of the key steps in the Champagne-making process:

  • Pressing: Gentle pressing preserves pale color while harder pressing extracts more color from grape skins.
  • Fermentation: Barrel fermentation imparts deeper color vs. stainless steel.
  • Blending: Addition of reserve wines can enhance color depth and intensity.
  • Aging: Length of time on lees impacts color through oxidation.
  • Dosage: Addition of expeditions liqueur adjusts sweetness, flavor and hue.

House styles and objectives influence how each producer navigates these steps, resulting in an array of potential shades.

Champagne Shade Codes

To bring consistency to describing Champagne color, the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne adopted a formal color scale in 2003. The Champagne shade codes are as follows:

Code Color Description
BR Blanc de Blancs: Very pale yellow with silver highlights
BL Blanc de Blancs: Pale, light yellow
BS Blanc de Blancs: Light yellow with greener tints
BA Blanc de Blancs: Intense yellow, gold highlights
RO Rosé Champagne: Onion skin to salmon-pink
RS Rosé Champagne: Pink with orange tints
RC Rosé Champagne: Copper to caramel hue
OR Older vintage Champagne: Golden color
TU Blends of vintages: Golden amber
DO Blends of vintages: Old gold to tawny
RU Blends of vintages: Mahogany, brick-red glints

This standardized terminology helps provide consumers and wine professionals a common lexicon to accurately describe the wide range of hues found in Champagne. The lightest shades come from black de blancs made with 100% Chardonnay, while rosés and older vintage wines display richer, warmer tones.

Typical Champagne Colors

Most Champagne is a blend of the major grape varieties, displaying colors somewhere between the extremes of blanc de blancs and vintage wines. Some typical hues include:

  • Pale Straw: A delicate yellow with faint hints of green. Similar to the BL code.
  • Light Gold: A brighter golden tone while still being relatively light bodied. Aligns with the BS code.
  • Medium Gold: A rich gold that maintains vibrancy. Comparable to the BA designation.
  • Golden: Deeper golden hues moving towards amber. Like the OR shade code.

Factors like grape blend, village origin, and vintage influence these colors, making each Champagne unique in its appearance.

Popular Champagne Brand Color Profiles

Some of the most famous Champagne houses have distinctive stylistic profiles that are reflected in their wines’ consistent colors and codes. For example:

  • Moët & Chandon: Known for bright fruitiness with shades of pale straw to light gold (BL-BS).
  • Veuve Clicquot: Rich golden hues with intensity and vigor (BA).
  • Bollinger: Deeper golden tones with nutty, spicy notes (OR).
  • Dom Pérignon: Elegant pale yellow with a delicate mousse (BR-BL).
  • Taittinger: Very pale “silvery” yellow shades (BR).

Consumers can use these signature styles as a guide to picking Champagnes that align with their color preferences.

Factors Impacting Bottle Variation

While producers try to maintain consistency, bottle-to-bottle variation in Champagne color can arise due to:

  • Vintage variation in grape composition and quality
  • Subtle differences in pressing and fermentation
  • Discrepancies during blending and dosage
  • Extent of lees aging before disgorgement
  • Oxidation during corking and cellaring

Generally the house style remains intact, but it’s not uncommon to observe slight shades differing between bottles, vintages, and releases. This simply adds to the complexity of Champagne appreciation.

Serving Vessels Impact Perceived Color

The receptacle in which Champagne is served can also modify the perception of its color, especially in more delicate pale shades. Common serving vessels include:

  • Champagne Flute: Elongs color with less diffusion. Best for appreciating effervescence.
  • White Wine Glass: Allows more oxidation and hue spread. Useful for assessing nuances.
  • Coupe Glass: Also spreads color but can mute carbonation. Stylish but less ideal for analysis.

Pouring the same Champagne in different glassware can result in contrasting color impressions, so vessel choice is an important consideration.

Evaluating Champagne Color

When examining the color of Champagne, here are some key aspects to look for:

  • Clarity: Color should be brilliant without cloudiness.
  • Intensity: Assess depth and concentration of shade.
  • Hue: Note yellow, gold, amber, pink or copper tones.
  • Legs: Check viscosity by observing drips down the glass.
  • Effervescence: Look for a lively, persistent mousse.

Comparing the wine to shade guides like the Champagne color scale can further assist with identifying colors accurately.

Summary of Key Points

To summarize Champagne color analysis:

  • Grape blend, production method, and age affect hue.
  • Color codes standardize Champagne color terminology.
  • Most Champagne is pale yellow to golden.
  • Houses have signature stylistic colors.
  • Many factors influence bottle variation.
  • Serving glass impacts perceived shades.
  • Evaluating clarity, intensity and hue judges color.

Understanding this context helps decode the wide range of colors found in Champagne.


Champagne spans a broad spectrum of shades from delicate pale straw to rich burnished gold. The Champagne color scale provides standardized descriptors ranging from BR for blanc de blancs to RU for mature vintage wines. While blending, production techniques, age, and serving vessels influence the hue, most Champagne falls in the light to medium gold range, reflecting the fresh and vivacious style commonly associated with these beloved sparkling wines. The next time you pour yourself a glass, take a moment to admire its charming colors.