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Brut Champagne

White


(Brut Champagne pronunciation: Br-oot Sham-pein)

Before getting into what exactly Champagne is made of, and how it is made, it’s important to make some distinctions, which can be done through a quick history lesson. Champagne doesn’t actually refer to a type of grape, but is rather a historic wine region in northern France. Only sparkling wines produced in the Champagne region may properly be called or marketed "Champagne,” whereas all others, although people might call them Champagne, must actually be labeled as sparkling wines. Wine from Champagne dates back to Roman times, when they first planted the grapes and drank the wine. During the 16th century King Henry the Fourth was the first to designate "Vins de Champagne" or "Champagne Wines" an official wine region in France.

Winegrowers quickly realized that these "grey wines" they were making matured poorly in casks, which led to the idea of bottling wine. It was affirmed in 1821 that Dom Pérignon invented the method of creating sparkling wine during his tenure as a monk at "Abbaye (Abbey) bénédictine d'Hauvillers". He discovered that these grey wines became naturally sparkling, especially if they had a light color, low alcohol content, and were bottled at the time of the spring equinox.

Now comes the time to get into what Champagne is and the different types that exist. Champagne is typically a blend of the Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier grape varieties, sometimes including the lesser know varieties Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Petit Meslier, and Arbane. The sparkling wine typically exhibits tasting notes of citrus and almond and subtle aromas of toast. Of the existing styles of Champagne and sparkling wines, "Brut" and "Extra Brut" are the driest, and most popular.

What does Brut Mean in Champagne?

The French word brut roughly translates to raw, which indicates it is sold with low levels of sweetness. "Le Champagne Brut" (extra-dry) was created in 1876 by the demand of the British who, unlike the French at that time, preferred to drink dry wines. The laws governing the labels of Champagne wine styles enforce that Brut Champagne contains sugar levels of less than 15 grams per liter. Extra Brut Champagne however is the very driest form of this beloved wine style. Sometimes the extra dry bottle of bubbly is even referred to as ‘Brut Nature,’ referencing the fact that it is left ‘au naturel’ with no added sugars whatsoever. Sparkling wine producers must make sure that Extra Brut wines have no more than 6 grams per liter of residual sugar, which is almost as dry as the yeasts can physically manage before dying off.

In the late 20th and early 21st centuries, dry Brut Champagnes have become the default, and are significantly more popular than the sweeter style wines such as Sec, Demi-Sec, and Doux. Most Champagne is sold as Non-Vintage, meaning they are a blend from several vintages and several vineyard sites.

Sparkling wines including Brut Champagne pair well with food or can be enjoyed on their own, perhaps during a New Years toast. Soft creamy cheeses like Brie and mascarpone on sweet bread is a wonderfully paired appetizer with the beverage. For meals, seafood such as shrimp, shellfish, salmon, calamari, and oysters pair well with a glass of bubbly. Finally for desserts, fruit-based sweets, anything buttered or honeyed, and shortbread cookies are the best matches.

At Gold Medal Wine Club we feature a special Champagne for our members once a year for the Holidays. One of our best exclusive, direct-imports was the 95 Point Le Brun de Nueville 2006 Brut Champagne. Le Brun received "Champagne Producer of the Year Award" presented by International Wine & Spirit Competition for 2015.


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