During special events or holiday celebrations, it's not uncommon for a few bottles of champagne to be opened. Extra-brut, sec, demi-sec, doux – for those who aren't connoisseurs, it often seems the same. However, true champagne enthusiasts can tell the difference. This difference is determined during the dosage stage, which decides the nature of the champagne based on the presence or absence of sugar. So, what exactly is "champagne brut nature?"
Table of Contents:
- Definition of Champagne Brut Nature
- Dosage: The Critical Step
- Specific Production of Champagne Brut Nature
- Oenological Characteristics of Champagne Brut Nature
- How to Enjoy Champagne Brut Nature?
Definition of Champagne Brut Nature
By definition, and depending on the champagne categories, champagne nature or brut nature is champagne with very little sugar. It gets its name "champagne nature" because the only sugar present is the naturally occurring sugar in the grapes.
So, to put it simply: champagne brut nature is champagne in which no sugar has been added to the dosage liqueur, which should only contain residual sugar. Champagne brut nature is also referred to as zero dosage champagne. Few houses and winemakers venture into producing this type of champagne. However, Maison De Lozey is an exception, offering "La Cuvée du Dimanche," a true zero dosage nature champagne.
This champagne can be made from several grape varieties, such as a Chardonnay/Pinot Noir blend, for example. Similarly, it can be made with a single grape variety. Its uniqueness lies not in the grape varieties used but rather in the absence of added sugar.
Additionally, another characteristic, albeit minor, of champagne brut nature is that it contains very little sulfur and sulfite. So, for those wondering whether sulfite-free champagne is a myth or reality, the answer can be found in our article.
Dosage: The Critical Step
As we know, champagne is produced through a series of stages. The stage that determines its character is the dosage. It comes after the disgorgement stage, which involves removing yeast residues accumulated in the neck of the bottle. Due to the wine loss caused by disgorgement, a dosage liqueur is added to compensate. During the dosage, it determines the sugar content in the wine, which later classifies it as champagne brut nature, brut, extra-brut, or demi-sec.
The dosage significantly affects the wine's sensory evolution. The dosage liqueur plays a role in the wine's second fermentation. However, to preserve the wine's integrity, winemakers must introduce the most neutral liqueur possible. In champagne zero dosage, it contains no added sugar, only residual sugar. Therefore, the search for flavors in the aroma palette is even more meticulous than for other types of champagnes.
Champagne brut nature, also known as zero dosage champagne, is champagne with very little sugar. As a reminder, as mentioned in our article on champagne composition and dosage, champagne has different classifications based on sugar content.
Thus, we can determine 7 categories of champagnes based on sugar content:
- Sweet champagne contains more than 50 g of sugar per liter,
- Medium-sweet champagne contains between 32 g and 50 g per liter,
- Dry champagne: between 17 and 32 g of sugar per liter,
- Extra-dry champagne: from 12 to 17 g of sugar per liter,
- Brut champagne: between 6 and 12 g of sugar per liter,
- Extra-brut champagne: from 0 g to 6 g of sugar per liter,
- Brut nature champagne: between 0 and 3 g of sugar per liter.
While some non-aficionados may not discern the difference between brut and brut nature champagne, this table demonstrates that there is indeed a distinction. For brut nature, champagne contains less than 3 g of sugar, compared to a minimum of 6 g for brut champagne.
Specific Production of Champagne Brut Nature
In the Champagne region, champagne production is regulated by an AOC (Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée). Therefore, vineyard work methods are stringent, and wine production adheres to very precise specifications. Biodiversity also plays a significant role, and some winemakers, like De Lozey, even obtain multiple certifications.
Champagne brut nature bears witness to this daily commitment. To produce brut nature champagne, craftsmanship and high-quality raw materials are required. Hence the importance of certifications that ensure environmental quality. Champagne brut nature, by definition, contains no sugar, sulfur, or filtration. Therefore, winemakers have no margin for error, as this wine could quickly lose its essence.
Interestingly, several houses used to produce this type of champagne for their own consumption. These were cuvées that were not commercialized because no dosage liqueur or sugars were added.
Today, champagne enthusiasts are in search of these zero dosage wines. They seek authenticity in taste. Therefore, the dosage step is crucial. It must compensate for the wine loss during disgorgement with the right amount of liqueur. Furthermore, these liqueurs must contain only residual sugar.
So, when leaning towards nature champagne, questions about aging and aromas will inevitably arise. Indeed, dosage can contribute to the wine's aging, often extending it. Concerning the aromas and oenological qualities of champagne brut nature compared to brut champagne, for example, questions can be raised. Does champagne brut nature have lower oenological quality than others?
Lastly, brut nature champagne requires a significant amount of craftsmanship. Achieving the perfect balance during production between grape maturity and acidity is crucial. Where dosage can sweeten the wine source and hide imperfections, nature champagne allows no room for error.
Champagne Brut Nature: Its Oenological Characteristics
Brut nature champagnes are unique wines. According to Philippe Cheurlin, CEO of De Lozey Champagnes, as he mentions in his presentation of Cuvée du Dimanche, they are singular champagnes with their own story.
These zero dosage champagnes are livelier and more vibrant than others. They are highly appreciated for aperitifs and pair perfectly with dishes featuring seafood flavors, such as shellfish or fish. They release pure flavors with extremely fresh notes.
With less sugar, the sparkling acidity of these champagnes awakens the taste buds. They are refined champagnes that harmonize perfectly with gourmet dishes. These champagnes bring out the intrinsic characteristics of the terroir and grape varieties to a greater extent. This nature champagne emphasizes minerality and aromas, which are more easily perceived. Adding dosage can mask imperfections and sweeten the source.
How to Enjoy Champagne Brut Nature?
Champagne brut nature or zero dosage champagne is lively and very mineral. When served during a meal, it pairs well with seafood products. Oysters, sashimi, sea urchins, and caviar all complement its fresh and slightly sweet notes. For heartier meals, such as tartare of salmon or scallop carpaccio, it is an excellent choice.
With regards to meat, white meats will reveal its fresh and slightly sweet notes. It pairs wonderfully with spicy dishes, such as Thai cuisine with coriander and lemongrass. For meats in sauces, it suits marinated meats (especially with ginger) with a rich and robust flavor, like game.
Nevertheless, some may prefer it as an aperitif, perhaps accompanied by verrines made from salmon and shrimp or oysters. It can also complement cured meat products, such as pata negra. However, it is essential to avoid sweet desserts. Indeed, by definition, champagne brut nature contains no sugar, and pairing it with sweet desserts would only highlight the champagne's acidity.
Regarding temperature, champagne brut should be served chilled but not ice-cold. The ideal temperature ranges from 8 to 10°C (46 to 50°F). For more mature champagne, such as a vintage, 10°C is suitable. Avoid the freezer; instead, place the champagne in a champagne bucket filled with ice for optimal enjoyment. By preparing in advance, you can let it rest horizontally on one of the coolest refrigerator shelves.
Finally, the choice of glassware is also important. Flutes that are too narrow do not allow all the aromas to escape, while wide coupe glasses allow carbon dioxide to escape too quickly. The best glasses are tasting glasses or wine glasses. Also, ensure that the glasses are neither too clean nor washed with dish soap. The tiny bubbles form thanks to imperfections and impurities on the glass.
Nature champagne is a delicate and refined beverage. It deserves delicacy and attention during tasting. To help you make the most of it, Maison De Lozey has prepared 4 tips for enjoying champagne, especially in the summer.
In conclusion, now that you know more about champagne brut nature, you may want to try it. You are free to choose La Cuvée du Dimanche. This bottle is perfect for family or friends' aperitifs. If you're unsure about serving champagne during a meal, here's our selection for festive meals. Some people even enjoy champagne with cheese, like a glass of red wine. Here, too, we provide guidance on which champagne pairs well with which cheese.