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Champagne and sparkling wines are the go to wines for celebrations and festivities. Not only that, but they make great brunch and high-tea beverage options for your laid-back weekends too. Whether you prefer the crisp dryness of Extra Brut Champagne, or the sweeter styles of Demi-Sec, this article is here to decode the labelling of different sweetness levels in our much beloved bubbly.

So you will be well equipped, the next time you are in charge of buying the Christmas and New Year’s celebratory wine.

Champagne Makes Me Happy gifWho else gets this excited about Champagne (Courtesy of Tenor)

Champagne is protected by an Appellation of Origin (AOC). So, what does it mean to be part of the Champagne AOC? It means that there are certain rules that winemakers have to adhere to, if they want their Sparkling wine to be labelled as Champagne. This includes, where the grapes are grown, what varietals can be used, and also viticulture and winemaking laws. This helps control the quality of wines being produced so that the Champagne being put out to consumers are consistent year after year. These rules also dictate the labelling of various levels of sweetness.

Winemakers control how sweet the final Champagne will be by deciding on the level of sugar in the dosage. This is the mixture of still wine and sugar that is added after disgorging the frozen yeast sediment. Read more about the basic methods of sparkling wine production here. 

Labelling of Sweetness in Champagne InfographicDifferent sweetness levels of Champagne approximately represented by 4g sugar cubes.

The sweetness levels explained in this article applies specifically to Champagne, but can be used as a rule of thumb for all Sparkling wines, including Cava and Prosecco.

Brut Nature: 0-2g/L

Brut Nature is also known as zero dosage, ultra brut, brut sauvage and non-dosage. It means that the Champagne will be bone dry with no added sugar. This is a particular style more common to Growers Champagne, which are sparkling wines that are produced by grapes grown on the vineyard that is owned by the same estate.

Extra Brut: up to 6g/L

Extra Brut has no detectable sweetness with 0-6g/L of residual sugar. One teaspoon of sugar is 4 grams, so one bottle of Extra Brut Champagne will have no more than one and a half teaspoons of sugar.

Brut: up to 12g/L

Brut has no or barely detectable sweetness, ranging from 0 to 12g/L of residual sugar. It is by far the most popular labelling term, with approximately 95% of Champagne production made in this style. Brut includes the two sweetness levels mentioned above, Brut Nature and Extra Brut as well. 

Extra Sec: 12-17g/L

Extra Sec is also known as Extra Dry (yes, it sounds a little confusing). With 12- 17g/L of residual sugar, there will be some detectable sweetness in the Champagne.

Tip: Sweetness is easiest to detect on the tip of your tongue.

Sec: 17-32g/L

Sec can be translated to dry, however there will definitely be a noticeable sweetness to these Champagnes. Do not compare it the labelling of dry still wines, these wines will have no sweetness.

Demi-Sec: 32-50g/L

Directly translated to Medium Dry or Semi-Dry. It will have between 32 to 50g/L of residual sugar. It will taste moderately sweet, but not as sweet as dessert wines.

Doux: more than 50g/L

Doux is a very sweet style of Champagne that will be very hard to find nowadays because it is so rarely made. It will taste very sweet and soft on the palate with more than 50g/L of residual sugar. As a point of reference Coca-Cola has 108g/L of sugar.

Celebratory Champagne gifCheers, here's to celebrating Great Gatsby style (Courtesy of Giphy)

Once you have grasped the basic terminology for the sweetness levels, it is pretty straightforward to understand what the labelling terms all mean. There is a reason why most Champagnes are labelled as Brut, it is that level of residual sugar that balances out the fine bubbles, acidity and flavours of Champagne the best. The sweeter styles are harder to find, but would be fun to try out as well.

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Nicole Ng

Written by Nicole Ng

This kiwi was born and raised in Middle-earth. Nicole studied Wine Science at the University of Auckland on the beautiful Waiheke Island. Since graduating, she has been harvest hopping around the world. Completing vintages in Marlborough, Napa Valley, Hunter Valley, Ashikaga, and Auckland.

She manages Asian Wine Review and Rosé Revolution which takes up most of her time, but you will also see her helping out at many of TFW Masterclasses too!

With her free time, she likes to find cheap eats around Hong Kong and spend time outdoors. Somehow she is always hungry and has convinced her family and friends that she has a second stomach for dessert.

Unforgettable wine tastings: Corison Winery in Napa valley and Destiny Bay in Waiheke Island.