Deepen your champagne knowledge...
After they have rested quietly in cellars for between 18 months and 5 years (sometimes longer), the bottles of champagne are gradually raised into a vertical position, with their necks at the bottom so that any deposits make their way to the mouth of the bottle. The bottles can then be "disgorged", a process whereby the deposits is ejected by rapidly opening the bottle for a moment. This manipulation obviously leaves a little space in the bottle and this has to be filled with some reserve wine of the same type, and the "liqueur d'expedition" (shipping liqueur) .
The addition of the shipping liqueur just after disgorging is called "dosage". The liquid consists of a mixture of reserve wine and very pure cane sugar. The quantity of residual sugar in the bottled wine (the remaining natural sugar from the grapes, and any sugar that is added) determines the type of champagne:
|Brut Nature||=||no added sugar and under 3 grams/litre of residual sugars|
|Extra-Brut||=||between 0 and 6 g/litre of residual sugars|
|Brut||=||less than 12 g/litre of residual sugars|
|Extra sec (or Extra Dry)||=||between 12 & 17 g/litre of residual sugars|
|Sec (or Dry)||=||between 17 & 32 g/litre of residual sugars|
|Demi-Sec||=||between 32 & 50 g/litre of residual sugars|
|Doux||=||more than 50 g/litre of residual sugars|
|(There is a tolerance of +/- 3g on the figures of residual sugars : i.e. a brut may have 15 g/litre)|
For several years, Francis Boulard offers some of his wines in two versions, namely dosed and un-dosed, or in other words extra-brut and brut nature (for this latter version, some call them "zero dosage" champagne). Comparing the two allows the wine lover to have an idea of the influence of dosage on our appreciation of champagne wines. The absence of dosage allows the intrinsic qualities of the wine and its terroir to shine through more clearly. Minerality, partially or even completely hidden by the dosage is also better perceived. The wine's complexity (its richness in aromas) is also greater.
Over the last two centuries, there has been a tendency to drink champagne with less and less added sugar. In the 19th century, champagne was drunk very heavily sweetened, with residual sugar levels varying between 50 and 100 g/litre or even more. Today, very little “doux” and “demi-sec” champagnes are made.
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