Brut Champagne: What to Know

In the world of sparkling wine, Champagne is the cream of the crop. Produced in its eponymous region of France, these world-class bubbles add a touch of luxury to any holiday, celebration, or simple happy hour at home. However, navigating the world of Champagne labels can be somewhat tricky. 

You’ve likely heard the terms brut, extra brut, doux, and more used to describe what you’re drinking. What exactly do these terms tell you? The short and simple answer: how dry or sweet the wine is.

Brut Champagnes are kind of the Goldilocks of bubbles, in that they’re not too dry and not too sweet. They do lean toward the drier end of the spectrum—and are drier than Champagnes deemed “dry” or even “extra dry”—but are sweeter than those termed “extra brut.” Because of this middle-ground versatility, it’s no surprise that these beautifully balanced wines have garnered their place as go-to options for wine professionals and consumers alike. Here is what to know about these bottles of bubbly.

What Is Brut Champagne?

Brut Champagne is a style of sparkling wine that is classified by its level of dosage (or added sugar) upon bottling. 

Where Does Brut Champagne Come From?

As with all true Champagnes (no matter their level of dryness or sweetness), brut Champagne is always produced in the Champagne region of northern France. 

How Is Brut Champagne Made?

All Champagnes are made via the méthode traditionnelle (traditional method), meaning that the wines undergo a secondary fermentation in bottle. First, a still (non-sparkling) wine is made using standard fermentation and vinification methods. After a determined period of aging, the wine is then bottled (generally under a crown cap), with a bit of additional sugar and yeast added. This is known as the “liqueur de tirage.” The combination of sugar and yeast ignites a secondary fermentation in the bottle, which traps released carbon dioxide, a byproduct of fermentation, in the bottle, and gives Champagne its signature fizz. 

Once Champagne has finished aging, winemakers disgorge their bottles and add a certain amount of sugar to the wine to achieve its final flavour profile. This is where Champagne wines get their designation—in this case, brut.

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

We know what you must be thinking: Dry is actually sweeter than brut? In sparkling-wine terms, yes. It’s confusing, but we didn’t make the rules. Note that wines bottled with no added sugar are labelled “brut nature” or “zero dosage.” 

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.

What Does Brut Champagne Taste Like?

Although 12 grams per Liter may sound like a lot of sugar, these wines actually taste pretty dry on the palate. Culturally, our perception of “sugar” and “sweet” is based on high levels of sugar, so fear not! These wines taste dry, delicious, and promise to elevate any gathering where wine consumption is involved. 

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.

Do other sparking 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.

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.