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All About Brut Wine: Your Beginner’s Guide to This Bubbly Wine
McKenzie Hagan |
There’s a word you’ve likely noticed lurking on wine labels when you’re shopping for sparkling wine, and it’s “brut.” While you may have thought it was the name of the company, the type of wine, or even the varietal of grape, brut refers to something else entirely.
In this article, we answer some of the most common questions about brut, including what it is, how it’s made, how to serve it, and which foods are best for pairing with this scintillating wine.
Is Brut a Sparkling Wine or Champagne?
Let’s get this first question out of the way. Champagne and sparkling wine are indeed two distinct drinks, but it’s a fine line of distinction. While not all sparkling wine is Champagne, all Champagne is sparkling wine.
Let us explain. Champagne specifically refers to sparkling wine made in the French region of Champagne. Only sparkling wines produced in this defined geographical area can be called Champagne (notice the uppercase “C.”) Furthermore, Champagne is always made in the traditional way, which we’ll explain later.
Funnily enough, Spanish Cava is made in the same labor-intensive manner in which Champagne is made, but because it’s grown and produced in Spain, it cannot be called Champagne.
Still, many wine brands out there will call any sparkling wine “champagne” (note the lowercase “c”), so pay attention to the region on the bottle.
What Does Brut Mean?
In short, brut is the French word for dry.
Therefore, brut sparkling wine refers to a dry sparkling wine. Brut is also a term that’s used to describe Champagne. However, when winemakers refer to brut wine, they are referring to the style of wine, rather than any particular variety.
Understanding Levels of Sweetness
A wine’s level of sweetness is determined by the level of dosage, which refers to the practice of adding a small amount of sweetened wine back into the bottle. This triggers the secondary fermentation, giving the sparkling wine its bubbles.
While many Champagnes and sparkling wines have a high dosage, brut wine has very little of this sweetened wine added to it, keeping it dry and sharp.
When shopping for sparkling wine, or Champagne, you can pick one to suit your taste by checking the wine label for these terms:
- Brut Nature or Brut Zero: The driest of the dry, this brut is highly acidic and intense.
- Extra Brut: Another term for extra dry, it’s not quite as dry as brut nature, but still highly acidic.
- Brut: With anywhere between 0-12 grams of sugar per liter, brut is dry but slightly less mouth-watering than brut nature or extra brut.
- Extra Sec: A dry sparkling wine with hints of fruity sweetness.
- Sec: A brut with more residual sugar yet still balanced by acidity.
- Demi-Sec: A lovely and sweet brut with intense fruit flavors, such as apricots and lychee.
- Doux: As sweet as you can get, this sparkling wine has more sugar than a can of Coke.
How Are Brut Wines and Champagnes Made?
When it comes to winemaking, there are three main ways of creating bubbly.
- Traditional: This is the most expensive method and requires a lot of manual labor.
- Transfer method: This method ferments in the bottle, but winemakers also transfer it into tanks to filter sediment.
- Tank method: This is the cheapest method and utilizes large stainless steel tanks, where the wine gets a second fermentation.
While each method has its benefits (the latter two are much more cost-effective), the traditional approach is how iconic Champagne, such as Dom Perignon, and Spanish Cavas are made.
To produce bubbly the traditional way, winemakers make the base wine the same way they would make any wine. Check out our guide on how wine is made to learn more.
The wines are then bottled, ready for the second fermentation. This is called the “méthode champenoise,” and it’s where sparkling wine gets its carbonation.
During this time, the yeast in the wine dies, leaving sediment in the neck of the bottle. It’s then up to the winemaker to turn the wine in the bottle — by hand — every day to slowly remove the build-up of sediment.
Then the dosage takes place. Remember, for brut wine, this means very little sugar is added to the bottle.
What Does Brut Wine Taste Like?
Because brut refers to a wine’s level of sweetness rather than a specific variety of grape, we cannot tell you what every brut wine tastes like as they vary greatly.
For example, a brut sparkling wine made from cabernet sauvignon grapes grown in Napa will have different flavors than a brut made from a blend of pinot noir and chardonnay grown in the Champagne region of France.
However, what we can tell you is that brut feels sharp and crisp on the tongue, with the slightest hint of sweetness.
What Temperature Should You Serve Brut?
Brut should be served the same as any other sparkling wine or Champagne: nice and cold.
To enjoy at the best temperature, leave your bottle of bubbly in the fridge for at least three hours. If you’re running short on time, pop it in an ice bucket filled with ice and water. You can either invest in a quality ice bucket or get creative by turning your sink into one.
To keep your bubbles cool, pour into Champagne flutes. The long stems of the flutes will stop the wine from being warmed by your hands. If drinking Usual Brut straight from the bottle, it’s a good idea to keep the bottle on ice between sips.
How Do You Pair Brut Wine With Food?
Dry sparkling wines pair beautifully with a range of foods. Whether it’s French Champagne, Spanish Cava, Italian Prosecco, or a sensationally citrusy botte of Usual Wines brut, there are plenty of foods that complement the dryness of the wine.
The bubbly sharpness of brut wines cut through fats like a knife, and it pairs beautifully with cheese and fatty meats. Brut also helps balance heavy or salty meals, adding a much-needed touch of acidity.
Ah, Brut: How Sweet It Is
Choosing wine isn’t always easy. It seems most wine labels are written in a code that only sommeliers can crack. However, we hope this article has helped you decode the language a little better.
When choosing sparkling wine, remember that brut means dry. It is not a grape varietal, nor is it a type of wine such as red wine. It’s merely a descriptive word.
Brut is an ideal wine if you enjoy sharp sensations on the palate with a gentle hint of sweetness. If you’re looking for something mouth-wateringly dry, opt for brut nature or extra brut. Just be warned that these are very sharp.
Brut sparkling wine is also a low-sugar wine, ranging anywhere between 0-12 grams of sugar per liter. This makes it an ideal choice if you’re reducing your sugar intake but still want to enjoy a glass every now and then. If you prefer your bubbly a little sweeter, opt for extra sec, sec, or demi-sec. If you want a sugar rush, doux is for you.
Serving your sparkling wine cold is always the best option. Just pop that beauty in an ice bucket to chill. And don’t forget a nice dry glass of bubbly goes beautifully with salty food, so there’s nothing wrong if you want to pair it with a burger and fries. (In fact, we encourage it.)
To discover a bubbly that’s dry, refreshing and made with zero additives, check out our 12-pack of Usual Brut, so you’ll never run out of the good stuff.