Sweetness in Champagne
It wasn’t just the Romanovs (Russian Tsars) who liked their champagne sweet – until the end of the 19th century, virtually all champagnes were sweet, which suited the producers just fine because the added sugar masked any excess acidity and harshness in their wines and meant they could sell champagnes that were only one or two years old without a problem. The first ‘dry’ style of champagne was launched in the UK market by Madame Pommery in 1874 but considered revolutionary, and it was only after World War I that drier styles of champagne started replacing sweet champagne throughout the world.
Even today, many sweet champagnes will often be made with the poorest wines (ie. premieres tailles rather than Tete de Cuvée). Depending on the concentration of sugar in the liqueur de dosage added at disgorgement, a champagne will be more or less sweet.
There are six official levels of sweetness in champagne:
Extra Brut − Contains 0-6 grams of sugar per litre – less than one per cent of champagne sold.
Brut − Contains 6-14 grams of sugar per litre – 95 per cent of champagne sold.
Extra Sec − Contains 12-20 grams of sugar per litre – two to three per cent of champagne sold (but 35 per cent of US sales, which is mostly one brand – Möet & Chandon’s White Star).
Sec (Dry) − Contains 17-35 grams of sugar per litre – less than 0.5 per cent of champagne sold.
Demi-Sec − Contains 33-50 grams of sugar per litre – less than one per cent of champagne sold. Doux(Sweet) − Contains more than 50 grams of sugar per litre.