Sparkling wine is synonymous with fun, joy and celebration. Most people love a glass of Champagne, Cava or Prosecco from time to time, right? Enjoying a glass of bubbly should be relaxing, though if you’ve ever tried to make sense of a sparkling wine label you may have found yourself stressed out or confused. What does Brut mean on a wine label? How are you supposed to know if this wine is dry or sweet? How do I choose the right sparkling wine?
Here, we will look at a few of the most common terms on wine labels and try to make sense of them. Note that in some cases there will be variations of the below between individual countries and regions, but keep this guide in mind as a general rule of thumb and you are unlikely to go wrong!
What does Brut mean (and other confusing terms made simple)
Ultra Brut, Brut Nature, Extra Brut, Brut Zero
These are the driest sparkling wines that you will find, with between 0 and 6 grams per litre of residual sugar. We know that wine is made by fermentation, the process of converting the sugar from grapes into alcohol. Residual sugar is the leftover sugar after this process has occurred, and provides naturally-occurring sweetness to the wines. In this case, such low levels of residual sugar are virtually undetectable and so these wines are considered to be fully dry. Try Oriol Rossell Brut Nature 2013 for a seriously good value introduction to this style.
Brut sparkling wine is the most common style you will tend to see. It is fully dry, with no more than 12 grams per litre of residual sugar. The palate will be bone dry and you should not be able to detect any sweetness. Most non-vintage Champagnes and Cavas are at the brut level of sweetness. A classic non-vintage Champagne from a quality producer such as Moët & Chandon Brut Impérial is typical of this style.
Extra Dry, Extra Sec
Somewhat confusingly, this wine will be sweeter than the above examples. In fact this level is considered to be “off dry”, which will taste slightly sweet at between 12 and 17 grams per litre of residual sugar. This is not a “sweet wine” but you will begin to detect sweetness at this level.
Though this term translates literally as “dry”, wines with this label will taste distinctly sweet. Residual sugar is noticeably higher at this level, with between 17 and 32 grams per litre. (As an aside, if you see this term referring to still white Bordeaux on a wine list or label, you will expect a fully dry wine.)
This level is sweet for sure. At between 32 and 50 grams per litre of residual sugar, this style of wine would in fact be a match for many sweet desserts.
This style is the sweetest of them all, with more than 50 grams per litre of residual sugar. Poor examples of this style will be almost sickly sweet and cloying, but quality wines exist at this level and offer the headiness of a fine Champagne with the decadence of a Sauternes.
Knowing how to decode wine labels in this way is very useful, and will help you pick the best wine for any occasion!
What does Brut mean for cocktail making?
Do you want to learn about how to make a sparking wine cocktail? Mixology is more popular today than ever, and sparkling wines are a great cocktail ingredient. There are many types of Champagne cocktails and sparkling wine cocktails, ranging from dry to very sweet. Now that we can answer the question “what does Brut mean on a Champagne label?” we’ll celebrate with a Brut Champagne cocktail or two!
Brut Champagne cocktail
To make this classic cocktail:
- Chill a Champagne flute
- Add a sugar cube
- Add a couple of dashes of Angostura bitters
- Fill to the top with your favourite Brut Champagne
- Finish with a squeeze of lemon
Brut Champagne Mimosa
Traditionally made with Prosecco, this one is even better with Champagne! There are two simple ingredients:
- Orange juice
- Brut Champagne
It’s up to you how much of each ingredient you use. Some like an even split between the two, but serve it how you like it yourself!
What other Brut Champagne cocktails do you like to serve at parties?