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What does ‘Brut’ mean on a Champagne label? – ask Decanter

You see the word ‘brut’ on many Champagne bottles, but what does it mean and what does it tell you about the contents?

Brut is the second ‘driest’ category of Champagne and is by far the most popular.

As any wine lover will know, classification systems can be confusing and you often to need to be ‘in the know’ in order to decipher what the label is telling you.

When it comes to Champagne, one of the main things to decipher involves the sugar content of the fizz, also known as the level of residual sugar.

The classification system for Champagne, based on grams per litre, is as follows:

Doux: More than 50 g/L
Demi-sec: 32-50 g/L
Sec: 17-32 g/L
Extra dry: 12-17 g/L
Brut: Less than 12 g/L
Extra brut: 0-6 g/L
Brut nature/Zero dosage: Less than 3 g/L

Most non-vintage Champagnes contain less than 12 grams per litre of sugar but more than 6 g/L; this is commonly considered the ‘sweet spot’, where the sugars in the wine balance its high acidity and CO2 content to produce a finished product that’s universally appealing.

How do Champagne producers control how much sugar is in the wine?

Champagne isn’t made in a sweet style, but the sugar comes from the ‘dosage’ that is added at to the dry wine post-secondary fermentation in bottle.

‘Dosage liqueur generally contains 500-750 grams of sugar per litre. The quantity added varies according to the style of Champagne,’ says the Comité Champagne, the trade association that represents the interests of independent Champagne producers and Champagne houses.

By determining how much dosage to add, each Champagne producer can determine how sweet or dry their product will be, with the lion’s share ending up in the Brut zone.

Does Brut Champagne pair well with food?

Absolutely. The late and great Gérard Basset MW MS OBE recommended Champagne with soft cheeses, because one needs ‘good acidity to cut through the high fat content’.

Champagne expert, author and Decanter contributor Michael Edwards, meanwhile, cites seafood as the perfect match for Blanc de Blancs Champagnes, which primarily come in the Brut style. ‘Blanc de Blancs is the natural match with seafood because of its fresh citrus spectrum range of flavours,’ he said.

There’s something to be said for extra brut and brut nature food pairings too, both of these bone dry styles go well with oysters and lobster.

Do other sparkling wines carry the Brut label?

In France the other category of sparkling wine aside from Champagne is Crémant, and these are traditionally made in a Brut style too and reflect this on their labels, for example the Emile Boeckel, Brut Rosé, Crémant d’Alsace, 2018, reviewed by Decanter in August 2020.

Elsewhere you can find Brut Cava from Spain and Brut English sparkling wine. Many ‘new world’ sparkling wines, such as those from South Africa or Australia, also carry the Brut moniker and fit broadly within the EU’s sugar classification brackets.

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