Blanc de Noirs vs Blanc de Blancs | Understanding Sparkling Wine

Harry Lambourne
13th October 2023

If you’re a lover of all things fizz, then you may have noticed the terms Blanc de Noirs and Blanc de Blancs pop up on a bottle when you’re having a browse to find your next bottle of bubbles. However, you may have been left wondering – what does that actually mean?

Sometimes the world of wine can be mystifying and remain that way as you don’t have the right person to ask, (or you don’t want to let on that you don’t know)! Well, we’re here to help. Much like the big NV to delineate Non-Vintage, the terms Blanc de Noirs and Blanc de Blancs are simple terms to help you find the style of sparkling wine which is right for you.

Over this quick article, we will introduce you to both of these terms and whether they can vary from region to region. Not only that, we will show you what flavours and structural characteristics you should expect from each of these styles of wine. Let’s learn more about Blanc de Noirs and Blanc de Blancs sparkling wines.

New World Sparkling Wine | Old World Sparkling Wine
Sparkling Wines Ready For The Taking

Blanc de Noirs VS Blanc de Blancs

The terms are actually relatively straightforward and if you have a bit of the French language in your back pocket, you may already be able to work out the literal translations of both. Blanc de Noirs translates to white from black, while Blanc de Blancs translates to white from white.

In terms of the actual sparkling wines they produce, the terms are used to delineate the colour of grapes which have been used to produce the wines. So, Blanc de Noirs are produced from solely black grape varieties. Within Champagne, this would mean Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier.

On the other hand, Blanc de Blancs means that the wine has been produced from solely white grapes. So, within Champagne, this would mean 100% Chardonnay. Of course, these terms are not exclusive to the world of Champagne.

The terms are used across France for Crémant, as well as in other winemaking nations such as Germany and even with the traditional method sparkling wines of Cava in Catalonia and Franciacorta in Lombardy.

Beyond this continent, the same labelling terms regularly crop up with new world sparkling wine. Expect Blanc de Blancs that are 100% Chardonnay in California, or Blanc de Noirs that is 100% Pinot Noir from Australia. Although, the grape varieties could vary greatly. They aren’t exclusively those which are used in the Champagne region.

What Do These Wines Taste Like?

It should come as no surprise that these styles of wine will present different flavour profiles. Blanc de Noirs wines generally have a bit more oomph and body to them. They’ll also have more of a fruity characteristic. In terms of common tasting notes, expect fresh red fruits to take centre stage. With these kinds of wines, you’ll often experience flavours of redcurrant, raspberry, strawberry, cranberry and occasionally cherry.

In contrast to this, the wines which are made exclusively from white grape varieties will be lighter than their darker counterparts. They tend to possess a drier character. Think tart and acidic freshness. They will have notes of citrus and green fruit. Common tasting notes will include lemon, lime, green apple and pear.

While there are differences, it is important to remember the similarities. The styles of wine may be produced from different grapes, but the method of production remains the same. For example, within Champagne, both Blanc de Noirs and Blanc de Blancs Champagne will have been produced via the traditional method.

This means that secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle and they spend time in contact with dead yeast cells known as lees. So, regardless of the grape varieties, they will show tasting notes which have an autolytic character. These will include things such as biscuit, toast, bread and brioche.

Lees Gathering in the Traditional Method
Lees Gathering in the Traditional Method

This is a key point to remember. Regardless of whether the wine is Blanc de Noirs or Blanc de Blancs they will possess characteristics which are in line with the region that they are produced. So, if for some reason you don’t like Champagne, don’t seek out Blanc de Noirs or Blanc de Blancs Champagne as they are still first and foremost examples of the fizz of that region.

However, the differences should be celebrated. If you’re looking to experience these details then we’d recommend finding an entry level example of sparkling wine and then comparing the two wines against one another, (even better if they’re from the same winemaker).

Sample the lighter Blanc de Blancs first, then move onto that more fleshy and full Blanc de Noirs sparkling wine. Even though the terroir, length of ageing and winemaking techniques may be identical you’ll be presented with a completely different final product. You’ll know which style is right for you and next time you’re looking to pick up a bottle of fizz you’ll be sure to choose the perfect style.

We hope you enjoyed this look into the world of sparkling wine. If you want to keep learning about the drink that makes a party a party, then be sure to check out our other articles on the topic of sparkling wine.

They include:

Sparkling Wine All in a Row | New World Sparkling Wine
Who doesn’t love sparkling wine?

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