>> Monday, April 18, 2011
Dry champagne goes under the name of ‘brut’ (French for raw, unprocessed). Half-sweet and sweet are, confusingly, called sec and demi-sec. Even if ‘brut’ linguistically means “in its original state, sugar has been added to the brut champagnes, at bottling with the so-called dosage. Up to 12 grams per litre for brut. (12 grams is around 2 table spoons of sugar, or a half filled espresso cup) Perhaps more than what one would think? In recent years a new category has entered the champagne scene: ‘brut nature’, sometimes called brut zero, brut integrale or other things. The most extreme variant of this is when no sugar at all is added. It has even become a bit of the in thing to ask for. “The drier the more luxurious”, “the sugar hides the quality” etc. To some extent it is true, excessive sweetness can hide defects, but a bit of sugar can also give a more balanced and harmonious wine, especially if the acidity is very high. So one should not exaggerate “totally dry is best”.
Ideally one should taste (blind preferably) and decide for oneself. But even if it has become trendy with brut nature it is far from being a big seller. Yet. In 2003 shipments to the UK of brut nature was 180 bottles (according to CIVC). In 2006 it reached 474 bottles and in 2009 a dizzying 4,770 bottles. But it is a hardly noticeable drop in the champagne ocean compared with the 32 million bottles of brut shipped in 2008.