If a champagne is ‘brut‘ it means that it is dry and not sweet.  But wait.  Doesn’t sec mean dry in French?  What does brut mean? Brut actually means raw or crude.  To get an overview, let’s look at the different categories of sweet in sparkling wine or champagne.

  • Extra Brut (less than 6 grams of residual sugar per litre)
  • Brut (less than 12 grams)
  • Extra Dry (between 12 and 17 grams)
  • Sec (between 17 and 32 grams)
  • Demi-sec (between 32 and 50 grams)
  • Doux (50 grams)

Brut is more dry than extra dry.  Today, sparkling wine drinkers tend towards the drier end of the spectrum.  But that wasn’t always the case.  At the turn of the century, sparkling wine palates preferred the sec to demi-sec.  So when producers started making them even more dry they needed a new nomenclature, hence the brut and extra brut.  Raw suggests the Champagnes are in their natural state and indeed that is the idea, with there being very little sugar added.

It is like the Starbuck’s incident of tall being their smallest size.  At one point tall was….well…tall. Sec was once the driest but now it its middle of the road even though it means dry.

On a side note, our word brute for a person of lesser manners and intelligence comes from this word brut meaning raw and crude.


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