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Dry Champagne: panel tasting results

It’s an increasingly fashionable category, but still very much a niche area of the Champagne world. See these five highly recommended wines from Decanter's Brut Nature and Extra Brut Champagne panel tasting...

Dry Champagne: Extra Brut and Brut Nature

‘Sugar is the new evil,’ pronounced Simon Field MW. ‘It gives you diabetes, and makes you fat. Hence the current fashion for low-dosage Champagne. The dosage has come down in the Champagne category as a whole over the past 10 or 15 years from an average 12 grams/litre of sugar to around 9g/l. But is it correct to go right down to zero, or close to zero?’

‘It’s totally driven by fashion,’ agreed Michael Edwards. ‘People love the idea of something completely dry. Whether they like it in the glass is another matter.’

Edwards was relatively impressed by the category: ‘I think the wines showed themselves honourably, without any dramatic successes. I don’t think we found any gold-standard examples.’

‘You’ll always be disappointed with this style,’ said Field, ‘because there is nowhere to hide; you really are exposing everything.’ It’s risky too, he added. ‘When the dosage is zero or almost zero, you have oxidative vulnerability, and need more sulphur at disgorgement.’

This helps to explain why the volumes are so small still. ‘You need a very good site and old vines, and it’s generally done on a small scale,’ said Edwards. ‘It’s a very difficult category to produce, and you can count the people who do it well on one hand. But when it’s good, it’s very good.’

Xavier Rousset MS expressed a preference for wines with a touch of sugar as opposed to none. ‘I prefer 1g or 2g of sugar to none, as a generalisation, and found the Extra Bruts more interesting,’ agreed Edwards. ‘Sugar is an activator of aromas, and even in the very good Brut Natures, the aromas are fairly subdued.’

All the tasters questioned the long-term ageability of the category, concluding that it’s an unknown quantity since the style is so new. ‘It’s a touchy subject,’ said Edwards. ‘Some people say the lack of sugar means they won’t age as well, and there may be some truth in that.’

The five highly recommended Brut Nature & Extra Brut Champagnes from the panel tasting:

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