You may have seen the terms “Brut” and “Extra Dry” when shopping for bubbly. But what do they mean? Let’s discover the differences between Brut vs Extra Dry Champagne.
Buying a bottle of bubbly for your next get-together or celebration? It can be challenging to know just what you’re getting by the labels alone. Especially if you’re just looking for one that’s dry in style. From Dry to Extra-Dry to Brut — and more — how do you tell them apart?
In this article, I clear up the confusion about Champagne dryness levels, what each one means, and what they taste like — so you can choose your next bottle with confidence.
What is Brut Champagne?
All sparkling wine labeled Champagne must be produced with grapes grown in the region of the same name. It’s located in northeast France, north of Burgundy. So it’s no surprise that two of the most common grape varieties used to make Champagne are Chardonnay and Pinot Noir — both dominant in the Burgundy region. A third common grape Champagne producers use is Pinot Meunier.
And while most Champagne you’ll find at the store or your local wine shop is dry in style, there are several degrees of dryness when it comes to bubbly. These are based on the levels of residual sugar in the wine.
Among the most common is Brut, which is French, for “dry.” In order to be classified as Brut, Champagne must have less than 12 grams of residual sugar per liter.
And although these wines are dry, you might be surprised to learn that Brut actually falls somewhere near the middle of the Champagne sweetness scale.
How does Brut Champagne taste?
You can tell a dry Champagne, and other dry wines for that matter, by how your mouth reacts to it. Dryer wines tend to be more acidic, so you should notice some tartness. And you may feel the wine sort of coat the sides of your tongue, making you salivate.
Brut Champagnes are very dry and crisp with minimal sweetness, high acidity, and a lighter body. And you may notice some toasty notes thanks to the yeast used in fermentation.
By contrast, sweet wines are, well, sweet. The higher sugar content will be very noticeable and they’ll usually have a longer finish.
What is Extra Dry Champagne?
If Brut means a dry Champagne, you’d be forgiven for thinking that Extra Dry (also called Extra Sec) must refer to one that’s even less sweet. But the opposite is true. While Brut must have less than 12 grams of sugar per liter, Extra Dry can have between 12-17 grams of sugar. That adds an extra hint of sweetness, but not so much that the wine will taste overly sugary.
How does Extra Dry Champagne taste?
Extra Dry Champagne will still feature good levels of acidity and crispness, but with a slightly sweeter taste than Brut. You also may notice more pronounced citrus and green fruit flavors, as well as hints of toast or brioche bread, again thanks to the yeast.
Brut and Extra Dry food pairings
The acidity, crispness, and toastiness in these wines are an exceptional complement to dishes like grilled shrimp, lobster, creamy pastas and risotto, soft cheeses, and even fried chicken or popcorn. Seriously, try a glass of dry Champagne the next time you’re making fried chicken for dinner. Chances are, you won’t regret it!
👉🏼 Related: Chenin Blanc vs Chardonnay: Wine Tasting Guide
Other levels of Champagne sweetness
Apart from Extra Dry and Brut, there are 5 other Champagne sweetness levels, ranging from the very sweet to the bone dry. Here are the different types of Champagne in order, from dryest to sweetest, based on residual sugar content:
|0-3 grams of residual sugar / liter
|0-6 grams of residual sugar / liter
|0-12 grams of residual sugar / liter
|12-17 grams of residual sugar / liter
|17-32 grams of residual sugar / liter
|32-50 grams of residual sugar / liter
|50+ grams of residual sugar / liter
Brut vs Extra Dry
Overall, the main difference between Btur and Extra Dry Champagne is a slight change in the residual sugar levels and amount of sweetness. Brut is dryer than Extra Dry as it contains less residual sugar. But not all Brut and Extra Dry Champagne are created equal.
And that’s part of what makes wine tasting so fun. If you’re not sure which one is for you, go out and try a few side by side. Even compare them to an Extra Brut, which has less sugar, to discover some of the differences between dry and very dry Champagne.
If you’re in the mood for a sweeter style of Champagne, sample a Demi-Sec or Doux. These are often served as dessert wines. They have noticeable sweetness and are a good choice for dishes with a bit of tartness or bitterness for balance, like citrus desserts or dark chocolate.
While most Champagne is made with a blend of Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Petit Meunier grapes, some are made with single grape varieties. Blanc de Blancs for example can be made with only Chardonnay. And Blanc de Noirs may use only Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier.
Blanc de Blancs, meaning “white from whites,” refers to Champagne which is made with only white grapes, such as Chardonnay, Pinot Blanc, or Petit Meslier. Blanc de Noirs, which means “white from black,” denotes Champagne that is produced with only red grapes, such as Pinot Noir or Pinot Meunier. So even though the skins are red (or black), the wine produced from them is white as it is not left in contact with the skins during pressing.