Brut Champagne

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Brut Champagne has a dry style and taste, with very low sugar levels remaining inside the bottle.  However, it hasn’t always been this way.  In the past, champagne was made using a considerable amount of extra sugar that was added following the second fermentation in order to adjust sweetness levels to suit the sweet tooth of the day.  Perrier-Jouët, the Epernay-based producer, was the first to craft champagne without extra sugar in the mid-1800s.  The dry style with its tongue drying, crisp character, however, didn’t catch on very quickly.  It would be another three decades before the Brut Champagne style would enjoy greater success with consumers when Pommery produced Reims.  Today there is a full spectrum of different Champagne styles that are produced, from incredibly dry to super sweet.  The labels often provide clues as to what the Champagne style is by referencing “sec,” “brut,” “extra brut” and so forth.

Champagne Styles: Super Sweet To Bone Dry

Doux– In French, this is “sweet.”  This style of Champagne is very sweet and also very rare.  It contains at least 50 grams of sugar per liter (more than 5% sugar).  The Doux contains higher sugar levels than your favorite cans of soda, which definitely qualifies this as dessert.

Demi-Sec– This Champagne has a semi-sweet or “half-dry” taste.  The demi-sec styles of Champagne contain 33 to 50 grams of sugar for every liter (3.3 to 5% sugar).

Sec– French for lean or dry.  However, Sec Champagne styles frequently have a slightly sweet taste.  Sugar stays within the range of 17 to 35 grams a liter (1.7 to 3.5% sugar).

Extra Dry– the name seems to indicate this Champagne style would have a drier taste than Brut Champagne.  However, typically, this isn’t the case.  Usually Extra Dry has a slightly sweeter taste than Brut Champagne does.  Sugar levels range from 12 to 20 grams of sugar for every liter (1.2 to 2% sugar).

Brut– in French this means unrefined, raw or dry.  The Brut Champagne style has a very dry taste on the palate.  The sugar level is fewer than 15 grams per one liter (1.5% sugar).

Extra Brut– this style of champagne contains very low sugar levels.  It results in a style that is bone-dry had made with just 0 to 6 grams of sugar for every liter (.6% sugar).

Brut Champagne

Food Pairings For Brut Champagnes

Brut Champagne offers a dry taste to the palate, with flavors and aromas leaning towards citrus, pear and apple that can also moves towards apricot and peach for the warmer vintages.  Fuller-bodied styles, creamy textures and fresh-baked bread aromas are directly influenced by the spent yeast that is used during the second fermentation.  Brut Champagne brings a food pairing to the table that is exceptionally versatile.  It goes well with everything from salty flavored fare, to butter-drenched seafood delicacies to traditional caviar.  The zippy carbonation and high acidity cut through fats and oils with a tasty palate precision, which makes everything from smoked salmon to Oysters Rockefeller to savory quiche to fried potatoes a delicious and savory treat.

Making Brut Champagne

Technically, Champagne only qualifies as Champagne when it is produced in Champagne France and only Pinot Meunier, Pinot Noir or Chardonnay grapes are used.  It consists of a blend of vineyards and grapes and sometimes vintages as well (until it is classified as “vintage” Champagne).  There is approximately 45 various still wines on average that are mixed together to make the final Champagne bottling blend.  Every Champagne house has its consistent yet unique house style every year.  The grapes get harvested and then fermented and aged for a while before they are bottled using the regular wine making process.  However, Champagne needs to undergo a second fermentation process to get bubbles and have them captured inside the bottle.

The second fermentation process gets jump started by adding yeast and sugar (referred to as liqueur de tirage) into the bottles of the blended still wine.  This initiates the second round of fermentation.  After the spent yeast runs its course, it starts to collect in the form of sediment.  The yeast sediment is referred to as “lees.”  Champagne resting on lees is referred to as “sur lies” (in French this literally means “on lees”) and is influenced forever by the lees.  The final flavor provides a fresh-baked bread and yeasty character.  When the time comes for the spent yeast to be removed, the bottles get turned upside down at an angle to allow the sediment to collect inside the bottle neck.  This sediment can then be removed before the bottles are corked.  At this point the sugar levels of the Champagne are adjusted and determined.  If the producer wants to make an Extra Brut Champagne or Brut Champagne, usually nothing is added.  If, on the other hand, a sweeter-style Champagne is the goal, then a dosage gets added.  Essentially a dosage is a blend of sugar and base wine that can be more or less concentrated, depending on what level of sweetness is desired.

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