What’s the Difference Between Brut and Extra-Dry Champagne?

The next time you pop the cork on a bottle of Champagne, will you be sipping a sweet wine or an extra dry one? Knowing the difference between Brut Champagne and Extra-Dry Champagne will allow you to choose the wine that’s perfect for any meal or occasion.

What Is Brut Champagne?

The word Brut is French for “dry” which means that Brut Champagne is a dry, sparkling wine. There are actually several different levels of Brut Champagne, each distinguished by the sweetness and acidity embodied in the wine. Brut Nature or Brut Zero Champagne is the driest and most acidic of the Bruts, followed by Extra Brut and Brut Champagne. 

Because of its low sugar content, Brut Champagne is very dry with just a slight hint of sweetness. It’s a light-bodied wine that pairs well with rich, fatty foods like lobster, cheese dishes, pasta or risotto. Brut Champagne is best when served cold, so you should chill your bottle in the refrigerator for at least three hours before serving it in Champagne flutes.

What Is Extra-Dry Champagne?

Despite its name, Extra-Dry Champagne (also known as Extra Sec) is actually sweeter than Brut because it contains more sugar. In fact, Extra-Dry Champagne can contain as much as 5 grams more sugar per 5-ounce serving than Brut.

When sipping your glass of Extra-Dry Champagne, you may detect notes of citrus and green fruit along with flavors of brioche and almond. This wine pairs well with soft cheeses, buttery cream sauces and seafood such as shrimp, salmon and caviar.

The Champagne Sweetness Scale

Sugar is added to Champagne at three different points in the winemaking process. The first time is to lift the alcohol level during fermentation. The second time is to generate fermentation in order to create those famous Champagne bubbles. The last time is to add sweetness to the wine.

Degrees of sweetness are displayed on every Champagne bottle. Ranging from dry to sweet, the amount of sugar and calories for a 5-ounce glass are as follows:

  • Brut Nature. Contains 0-3 grams of sugar, 91-93 calories.
  • Extra Brut. Contains 0-6 grams of sugar, 91-96 calories.
  • Brut. Contains 0-12 grams of sugar, 91-98 calories.
  • Extra Dry. Contains 12-17 grams of sugar, 98-101 calories.
  • Dry. Contains 17-32 grams of sugar, 101-111 calories.
  • Demi-Sec. Contains 32-50 grams of sugar, 111-121 calories.
  • Doux. Contains 50+ grams of sugar, 121+ calories.

For context, a 5-ounce glass of the sweet wine, Moscato, contains 64 grams of sugar and 127 calories per serving.

How Is Champagne and Sparkling Wine Made?

There are three different methods used to make Champagne and sparkling wine. The first and most time-consuming process is known as the “methode champenoise.” The winemaker creates the bubbles in the wine at the point that it goes through its second fermentation. This requires that the winemaker handle every bottle multiple times.

With the “charmat method” the second fermentation takes place in a large tank of wine, after which the wine is bottled.

The third process involves pumping carbon dioxide into a large tank of wine and then transferring it into bottles.

Final Thoughts

Now that you know the distinction between Brut and Extra-Dry Champagne, you can choose the wine that most pleases your palate and complements your meal.