UMC - Grandes Marques et Maisons de Champagne

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Champagne labeling is designed to be both decorative and informative. By law every label is required to disclose the provenance of the Champagne together with the identity of the winemaker. Bottles must be labeled in a way that is aesthetically pleasing while also guaranteeing the authenticity of the Champagne.

Appendix: The rise of aesthetics over the centuries

The first Champagne Houses sealed their bottles with wax. The seal covered the string and the cork, which was numbered or marked with a letter or other distinguishing symbol. The colour of the wax meanwhile varied according to the quality of the cuvee itself. The first hand-written labels appeared circa 1820, designed by special order for individual customers. Subsequent rapid advances in printing technology and lithography then turned the Champagne label into an objet d’art. Calligraphy, motifs, colour (bronze, gold, black, garnet-red) and wordplay — labels became ever more extravagant as did the names of the cuvees themselves (Fleur de ..., Cuvée Réservée, Cuvée Extra-Supérieure ...).

But even in those early days, the label had a pivotal role to play in informing the consumer about the Champagne. It was then that Champagne Houses négociants acquired the habit of displaying three statements that were certainly not compulsory at the time:

  • the origins of the wine (cru or village where the grapes were grown),
  • the name of the winemaker,
  • the name of the village where the winemaker was established.

The year of harvest first appeared in 1834 — indicating a vintage (millésime) Champagne, exclusively made from the fruit produced in the year displayed on the label.

Since 1979, every Champagne label must display the following nine mandatory statements to comply with EU product labeling rules:

  • the name "Champagne" (omitting the words Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée since every Champagne wine is by definition from an Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée;
  • the trademark or name of the Champagne House in question;
  • the type of wine as defined by residual sugar content: Extra-Brut, Brut Nature, Brut, Extra-Dry, Sec, Demi-Sec or Doux;
  • the nominal volume in centilitres or more usually, in millimetres: 37.5cl or 350ml, 75cl or 750ml, etc.
  • the alcohol content, expressed as a percentage (which for Champagne varies between 10%/vol and 13%/vol);
  • the name of the élaborateur (winemaker) and/or the company name, written in full or as a code number, preceded by the words élaboré par... (made by) or élaborateur and followed by:
  • the name of the commune d’élaboration (place where the Champagne was made), likewise written in full or as a code number.
  • the country of origin "France",
  • the official registration number issued by the Comité Interprofessionnel du Vin de Champagne (Comité Champagne) to every winemaker for every brand in use, consisting of a series of tiny figures preceded by two initials that indicate the category of the individual or company that makes and markets the wine. These categories are as follows (seven in all):

NM: Négociant-Manipulant [1]
There are at least 200 Négociants-Manipulants, most of them based in Reims and Epernay, Champagne’s two flagship towns at the heart of the vineyard area. A négociant may be an individual or a company trading exclusively as a Champagne House, with or without vines of their own and dependent on bought-in grapes for the bulk of their Champagne production.

RM: Récoltant-Manipulant
More than 2000 Growers who make and market own-label Champagne exclusively from their own grapes. One third of all Champagne operators belong in this category.

RC: Récoltant-Coopérateur
Some 3,000 co-op Growers (half of all Champagne operators) who market co-op produced Champagne under their own labels.

SR: Société de Récoltants
A group of Growers, typically from the same family, who join forces to make and market Champagne under their own label, using co-op facilities as necessary.

CM: Coopérative de Manipulation
A Champagne co-op owned by a group of Growers who make wine, which sells Champagne under its own label or that of its members. Out of more than 100 Champagne co-ops, only half of them engage in marketing activities.

MA: Marque Auxiliaire, Marque d’Acheteur or Marque Autorisée
Brand of Champagne owned by a third party who is not the producer — restaurant, wine merchant, chain store — and customized for sector-based marketing. MA Champagne may be sourced from a Récoltant-Manipulant, a Négociant-Manipulant or a Coopérative de Manipulation.

ND: Négociant-Distributeur
Individual or company (usually a wine merchant) that buys in finished bottles of Champagne and labels them in their own name, on their own premises.

The label may also display other optional information where appropriate, for instance:

  • Year of harvest: indicates a vintage (millesimé) Champagne, exclusively made from the fruit produced in the year that is displayed on the label by the producer and containing no reserve wines.
  • Blanc de Blancs: Indicates a cuvee exclusively made from light-skinned grapes, typically Chardonnay.
  • Blanc de Noirs: indicates a cuvee exclusively made from dark-skinned grapes (Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier).
  • Grand Cru: indicates a wine exclusively produced from vineyards rated 100% on the Echelle des Crus (scale of growths).
  • Premier Cru: indicates a wine exclusively produced from vineyards rated 90-99% on the Echelle des Crus.
  • Name of village/commune: optional for cuvees made from wines that all originate from the same commune.
  • The vineyard of origin in the case of certain very rare, single-vineyard Champagne wines — from exceptionally well exposed plots producing rich, complete wines that justify separate bottling.

Terre de Champagne : 06 - La bouteille

The story behind the taste ...

Champagne winemaking is highly regulated, following tried and tested rules that reflect decades of experience and that also take account of the latest advances in wine technology and biotechnology

The industry continues to make steady progress, gaining ever greater mastery of the fermentation process and mechanizing production wherever possible to lighten the physical workload. For these and other decisions, the emphasis is placed firmly on quality control and improvement.

Hence the importance attached to rigorous testing and continuous monitoring at every stage of the Champagne-making process — from grape reception through fermentation and all the other winemaking processes that contribute to the quality of the finished wine. The Champagne that reaches your table has been tested and tasted throughout its development and passed with flying colours.

From the press to the tulip glass, effervescent Champagne wines stand testament to an art of winemaking that straddles the past and the future. Traditional savoir-faire joins with modern technology to bring the consumer memorable wines that give dependable pleasure. The world renown enjoyed by a well-known Champagne brand is owed to the steady observance of traditional rules of winemaking that guarantee consistency of taste — small, subtle distinctions that make all the difference to House aficionados. Connoisseurs and newcomers alike know that their Champagne will fulfill all expectations. The following quote says it all:

One day, my brother, I will drink. But I will drink Champagne and only Champagne ...

So Long, Stooge (French title: Tchao Pantin, directed by Claude Berri, 1983.


[1A ‘Champagne House’ is an agricultural and/or industrial and commercial business (but not exclusively agricultural) that controls the human and natural resources required to produce Grande Marque Champagne for distribution all over the world.
-  The House buys-in particular grape varieties and wine must from selected growths, purchasing from Growers with whom it enjoys long-standing relationships and usually making up the quantities with yields from its own vines.
-  To create a cuvee, the House blends the still wines from the year (vins clairs) with the reserve wines held over from previous harvests. This is the traditional method of making Champagne — an exacting winemaking technique that guarantees a recognizable House style from year to year, delivering the quality that consumers have come to expect from their chosen Marque.
-  The House makes and markets wine under its own label(s) for an international clientele. As a producer of Grande Marque Champagne wines, it is heir to a 300-year legacy of sparkling winemaking that has spread the name ‘Champagne’ around the world.
-  It is this control of the resources required for its production that sets Grande Marque Champagne apart. It also qualifies a Champagne House for membership of the UMC — barely one hundred members in all, out of the many hundreds of Négociants (typically a Champagne House) registered with the CIVC.
As members of the UMC, these Champagne Houses possess a separate legal, financial and market status that distinguishes them from other Champagne producers. Considered ‘industrial and commercial entities’ they are subject to a very strict code of practice — one that effectively precludes membership (except as an ‘Associate Member’) of any business or its principal subsidiaries whose activities are exclusively agricultural (whether de facto or de jure).