What is a Blanc de blancs? What is a Blanc de noirs?

Pupitre and bottles inside an underground cellar for the production of traditional method sparkling wines in italy

Chardonnay, Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier – If these three grape varieties sound familiar, there’s every chance you’re a Champagne lover! Often blended into a single cuvée, the three king grape varieties (accounting for over 99% of the vineyards in the Champagne region) express unique and complementary features, giving rise to the famous traditional Champagnes. While the legendary trio may appear to be inseparable, it is not uncommon to vinify them individually, based on their colour. From black to white grape varieties, from Blanc de blancs to Blanc de noirs, Champagne offers us an array of colours…
The terms are pretty straightforward with a little French in your back pocket, and you may have already worked out the literal translations of both! Blanc de blancs translates to white from white while Blanc de noirs translates to white from black.


It’s worth delving back into the Champagne-making process to understand the difference between a Blanc de blancs and a Blanc de noirs. As you already know, grape varieties fall into two categories: white and black (Pinot Gris is also authorised in the appellation but is only planted in minute quantities). This raises another question: how can Champagne adorn as light colour if black grape varieties are used to produce it?

Well, the colours of these grape varieties refer to the colour of the skin of the berries, and not the colour of the juice they produce which is white. In fact, the colour of the wine which ranges from white to red, pink or even orange is imparted during the maceration process when the skins come into contact with the juice.
 Black grape varieties such as Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier both have black skins and it’s crucial to limit the extraction of their colouring matter to preserve the light colour of the juice. To achieve this, the grape varieties undergo gentle direct pressing once the grapes have been hand-harvested (a prerequisite included in the strict Champagne specifications). As you might have guessed, this is how the renowned Blanc de noirs is produced! The legendary Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier varieties can then be blended or used individually as single varietals to craft ever richer, more intense nectars.

Meanwhile, white grape varieties are vinified separately to produce Blanc de blancs wines. Chardonnay is the most commonly used grape variety in this instance, although it can also be blended with a number of other varieties authorised in the specifications. These include Petit Meslier, Arbane and Pinot Blanc, a lovely invitation to freshness and delicacy.


Five wine-producing regions – Côte des Blancs, Vallée de la Marne, Côte de Bar, Montagne de Reims and Côte de Sézanne – all contribute their unique savoir-faire to crafting the one and only Champagne nectar. This diverse array of terroirs promises a wealth of aromas, flavours and expressions to delight your senses. Chalky soils generally produce fine, mineral Champagnes, while clayey soils tend to produce fuller, denser Champagnes. Blanc de blancs and Blanc de noirs each stem from different production areas and different terroirs, depending on the grape varieties involved.

Blancs de noirs are generally produced from Pinot Noir, mainly planted on the Montagne de Reims or the Côte des Bars, and/or from Pinot Meunier, predominantly found in the Vallée de la Marne. Blancs de blancs are generally produced from Chardonnay, the king grape variety of the Côte des blancs.


Blanc de blancs wines display a delicate pale yellow colourLively, it is characterised by aromas of white flowerscitrus and white fruit, and is often surprisingly delicate and refined. This is perfectly illustrated by the Blanc de blancs from the great Champagne houses such as Billecart-SalmonAyala or Charles Heidsieck (with its iconic Blanc des Millénaires). In the single vineyard category, the cuvée Les Rochefort crafted by Etienne Calsac displays a fine minerality with a unique character, not to mention the superb Crémant Grand Cru from Champagne Tellier and its superbly controlled finesse and freshness. Especially well-suited for the aperitif, Blanc de blancs is the perfect pairing for seafood such as scallops, shellfish or smoked salmon.

Unlike Blanc de blancs, Blancs de noirs are more vinous, round and powerful. They generally display a more intense colour and reveal notes of black fruit, red fruit and spices. Signatures by Gonet-MedevilleJérôme Coessens and Olivier Horiotreflect this description in the finest possible way. They are closely followed by several other prestigious Blanc de noirs, including the Philipponnat cuvée crafted by Franck Pascal or the Franc de Pied produced by Roger Coulon. These Champagnes are ideal at the table pairing beautifully with truffle-flavoured poultry or grilled fish, among other dishes.

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