As we kick off December, or Champagne month as I like to call it, I thought it only appropriate to go with a fabulous, sparkling wine-related Wine Word of the Week like dosage! Who knows, during this time of year it just might come up in casual, wine-related conversation and THEN who will look like the wine expert?
Sparkling wines like Champagne which are made using the méthode traditionnelle undergo a process called disgorgement which happens after the wine has undergone its secondary fermentation (for more info on the méthode traditionnelle, we’ve got ya covered here). In the video below, Winemaker Keith Hock of California’s acclaimed Schramsberg Vineyards “disgorges” a bottle of sparkling wine, and as you can see, a small amount of wine is lost when the temporary crown cap is removed. To replace the lost wine, a mixture of cane or beet sugar and wine is added to the bottle which is referred to as the dosage, or liqueur d’expedition. In addition to filling up the bottle, the dosage is also important because it determines the level of sweetness of the finished wine. As a reference, in order of least to most sweet, those levels are:
(1) brut nature or sans dosage: no sugar is added
(2) extra brut: less than 6 grams/liter of sugar is added
(3) brut: the most common style, less than 15 grams/liter of sugar is added
(4) extra dry or extra sec: 12-20 grams/liter of sugar is added
(5) sec: slightly sweet: 17-35 grams/liter of sugar is added
(6) demi-sec: 35-50 grams/liter of sugar is added
(7) doux: very sweet, more than 50 grams/liter of sugar is added
For Champagne, these levels are set forth by French wine law but in the US these terms have no legal definition. Suffice it to say for most New World sparkling wines like those from California, the term “Brut” on the label generally means the wine in the bottle will be crisp and dry. Keep in mind, even a dry-tasting sparkling wine has a little sugar in it to balance the wine’s naturally high acidity.