Different Styles of Champagne: From Brut to Demi-Sec, Blanc de Blanc to Rose…

When it comes to celebratory occasions, special moments, or simply indulging in life’s pleasures, champagne has always been a top choice. Effervescent, elegant, and synonymous with luxury, champagne is a sparkling wine that never fails to add a touch of magic to any event.

From sweetness levels to various styles and ageing periods, there is a world of diversity within the realm of champagne. In this blog post, let’s talk about the different styles of champagne, equipping you with some tips to pick the champagne for your next special moment!

Brut Nature, Brut, Demi-Sec, Doux…
What do they mean? 

One of the defining characteristics of champagne is its sweetness level, which is determined by the amount of residual sugar in the wine after fermentation. Here are the main sweetness levels you’ll encounter:

This image indicates the sugar content (in grams) in champagnes with different sweetness levels
Photo credit to Wine Folly

Brut Nature: This style is bone-dry with little to no added sugar. It contains less than 3 grams of sugar per litre, making it the driest of all champagnes. If you prefer a crisp and pure taste without any sweetness, Brut Nature is the way to go.

Extra Brut: Slightly sweeter than Brut Nature, Extra Brut champagnes contain up to 6 grams of sugar per litre. It still maintains a dry profile, appealing to those who enjoy a very low dosage of sweetness.

Brut: The most popular style of champagne, Brut is a classic choice for many. It contains up to 12 grams of sugar per litre, striking a harmonious balance between dryness and a touch of sweetness. This well-rounded style caters to a wide range of palates.

Extra-Dry: Contrary to its name, Extra-Dry is actually sweeter than Brut. It contains between 12 and 17 grams of sugar per litre. While it may not be “extra dry” in the traditional sense, it still offers a pleasant and approachable level of sweetness.

Dry: Also referred to as “Sec,” Dry champagnes contain between 17 and 32 grams of sugar per litre. This style was traditionally sweeter in the past, but over time, tastes have shifted towards drier versions. 

Demi-Sec: With a sugar content ranging from 32 to 50 grams per litre, it offers a noticeable sweetness that complements its effervescence. 

Doux: The sweetest style of champagne, Doux champagnes contain more than 50 grams of sugar per litre. This lusciously sweet option is ideal for dessert pairings.

Do you know?
Here is a sugar content comparison of champagne and non-wine drinks!

  • Brut Nature (0-3g/l) – Soda water (0g)
  • Extra Brut (0-6g/l) – an Old Fashioned(~4g)
  • Brut (0-15g/l) – a Gin & Tonic (~14g)
  • Extra Dry (12-20g/l)  –  250ml of orange juice (~20g)
  • Sec (17-35g/l) –  an Aperol Spritz (~19g)
  • Demi-sec (33-50g/l) – a can of Coke (~35g)
  • Doux (50 + g/l) –  a can of energy drinks (~55g)

Blanc de Blancs to Rose –
What are the difference?

Beyond sweetness levels, champagne is categorized into different styles based on the grapes used and winemaking techniques. Here are the 4 main styles.

Blend Bruno Paillard Champagne Blend

The majority of champagnes are blends of 3 primary grapes, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier. The art of blending allows champagne producers to craft unique and consistent flavour profiles year after year.

Our Pick:  Brimoncourt 2009 Vintage Champagne – A blend of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir from 2009. Thanks to its long ageing profile the acidity is gentle, harmonious with a mouth-coatingly long finish.

Blanc de Blancs

This style exclusively uses Chardonnay, resulting in a lighter and more delicate character. Blanc de Blancs champagnes often showcase floral, citrus, and mineral notes, making them a favourite among Chardonnay enthusiasts.

Our Pick: Bruno Paillard Blanc de Blancs 2013 – an extra brut champagne with fine bubbles and mouthwatering salinity pair for a long elegant finish of mint, plums, and hints of roasted hazelnuts.

Blanc de Noirs

In contrast to Blanc de Blancs, Blanc de Noirs champagnes are made solely from red grapes, Pinot Noir and/or Pinot Meunier. Despite their use of red grapes, these champagnes maintain a white appearance. Expect richer and fruitier flavours of red berries with a creamy texture.

RoseBruno Paillard Rose Champagne Glass

Rose champagnes get their lovely pink hue from a brief maceration of the red grape skins during the winemaking process. This style can be produced through blending or the saignée method. Rose champagnes offer a delightful spectrum of flavours, from red fruits to floral and spice notes.

Our Pick: Billecart Salmon Rose Champagne – A crowdpleaser and our customer all time favourite as a gift or self-enjoyment!

Do you know?
Champagne also produces still wines, called Coteaux Champenois, predominantly made from Pinot Noir, Chardonnay, and Pinot Meunier. They have a diverse range of styles, from crisp and refreshing whites to elegant and complex reds.

 Vintage vs. Non-Vintage – Age or not?

Indicating the ageing process, champagnes are labelled as either vintage or non-vintage

Billecart Champagne

Vintage: Vintage champagnes are made from grapes harvested in a single exceptional year. They represent the unique characteristics of that particular vintage and are crafted to age gracefully. Vintage champagnes are produced only in the best years and must be aged for a minimum of 3 years before release. A lot of champagne houses will extend the ageing period for a much longer period to 10 or even 20+ years for crafting a prestige bottle. Check out our range of library vintage champagnes, dating back from 1966 to 2012!

Non-Vintage: The majority of champagnes fall under the non-vintage category. They are created by combining grapes from multiple harvests to achieve a consistent house style year after year. Non-vintage champagnes provide a reliable and accessible option for enjoying champagne regularly.

Journey Through Champagne’s Terroir

Champagne region
Champagne hails from the renowned region in France with the same name. Within this region, there are 4 sub-regions, each known for its unique characteristics.

Montagne de Reims

This sub-region is renowned for its Pinot Noir production. The wines from Montagne de Reims are often rich and fruit-driven with a robust structure, making them excellent for ageing. The area contains 10 of the 17 Grand Cru vineyards, namely Ambonnay, Bouzy and Verzy.

Cote des Blancs

Famous for its Chardonnay vineyards, Cote des Blancs produces some of the finest Blanc de Blancs champagnes. These wines are celebrated for their elegant finesse, crisp acidity, and citrus-driven flavours. This sub-region is also home to 6 esteemed Grand Cru villages.

Vallee de la Marne

Located near Epernay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier are the dominant varietals in this region. It often produces a richer style of champagne with an earthy and smoky touch. Ay, a well-known village is the only Grand Cru in this area.

Cote des Bar

Situated between the main Champagne region and Burgundy, Côte des Bar is notable for its warmer climate, which favours Pinot Noir. The wines from this area often exhibit ripe fruit flavours and a generous character. While it was once considered an outlier, Côte des Bar has gradually gained recognition for its high-quality champagnes.

The world of champagne is a fascinating one.

With a little bit more knowledge about different styles of Champagne, from the bone-dry brut nature to the lusciously sweet doux, from the delicate Blanc de Blancs to the rich Blanc de Noir, you can now make your champagne selection with confidence for any occasion. Whether you are toasting to a special moment with vintage champagne or savouring the everyday delights of a non-vintage bottle, cheers to embracing this effervescent wonder!

This Blog post is written by Sharon Wong
Consumer Sales and Marketing Manager of Wanderlust Wine 

Sharon is the the driving force behind our website, wine club, marketing activities, and Wanderlust Wine events. 

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