Although New Years Eve is more than two-and-a-half months away, we can’t object to another “official” occasion to drink champagne.

First, an important thing to know: Champagne only refers to the sparkling wines of the Champagne region of France.

Everything else, by law, is called “sparkling wine,” no matter where in the world it is produced.


Champagne is made in seven styles, or levels, of sweetness. The sweetness comes from a step in the secondary fermentation of Champagne, when the bubbles are created. The process is called dosage (doe-SAZH): a small amount of sugar is added into the wine bottles before they are corked. The sugar also reduces the tartness/acidity of the wine.

  • Primary fermentation of Champagne: In the classic méthode champenoise used to make Champagne, Cava and American sparkling wines, the primary, or alcoholic, fermentation of the wine transforms the grape must (the pressed juice of the grapes) into wine. Natural yeast consumes the natural grape sugars, producing alcohol and carbon dioxide.
  • Secondary fermentation of Champagne: To create a secondary fermentation, the dosage is added to the wine. The the added yeasts eat the added sugar, again creating alcohol and carbon dioxide.
    Based on the amount of sugar in the dosage, the seven levels of sweetness based on residual sugar (what’s left after the secondary fermentation) are:

  • Brut Nature/Brut Zero: 0-3 g/l* residual sugar
  • Extra Brut: 0-6 g/l residual sugar
  • Brut: 0-12 g/l residual sugar
  • Extra Dry†: 12-17 g/l residual sugar
  • Dry: 17-32 g/l RS residual sugar
  • Demi-Sec: 32-50 g/l residual sugar
  • Doux: 50+ g/l residual sugar
    *Grams per liter.

    †It’s a paradox in the Champagne industry that “dry” indicates a sweeter wine; as do sec (which means dry in French) and demi-sec. Doux, the sweetest style of Champagne, does mean sweet.

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