Known by many names, such as Zero Dosage, Brut Nature or Brut Sauvage, this is a category that has become increasingly popular the last couple of years, however zero dosage champagne is not a new thing.
After the juice has been pressed from the grapes it is placed in tanks where the first fermentation takes place. The natural grape sugars will be consumed by the yeast and the outcome is a still wine that has been fermented completely dry. Generally 1st fermentation takes place in steel tanks, although certain producers choose to ferment in barrels, a technique that is more challenging to master.
Once all the natural sugars present in the wine has been consumed, assemblage, or blending, takes place. It is at this stage when the Chef de Cave will decide on the amount of reserve wines to add to create the blend for a specific cuvee and a mixture of yeast, yeast nutrients and sugar is added to the wine for the 2nd fermentation. Bottles are sealed with bottles caps and then cellared to ferment slowly.
As this fermentation continues, the yeast cells will be consumed and after several months the fermentation process is complete, the champagne will then spend a number of years in the cellar to age. During the ageing process, bottles are placed in riddling racks or on gyropalates and riddled each day in order to force the dead yeast cells into the neck of the bottle.
Finally disgorgement will take place where the neck is frozen in an ice-salt bath which results in the formation of a frozen plug in the neck of the bottle. The cap is removed and the pressure in the bottle forces the frozen plug out. A little bit of wine is lots in the process.
It is then that the final dosage will be added, a mixture of wine and sugar and the amount of sugar added at this stage will determine the sweetness level of the champagne, creating either a Brut, Extra Brut, Sec, Demi-sec or Doux. With Brut Nature no sugar is added with the top-off wine.
Sweetness levels in champagne vary considerably with set classification parameters:
Brut Nature 0-3gr of sugar p/lt
Extra Brut 0-6gr of sugar p/lt
Brut 6-12gr of sugar p/lt
Sec 17-32gr of sugar p/lt
Demi-sec 32-50gr of sugar p/lt
Doux 50+gr of sugar p/lt
Brut Nature zero dosage champagne accounts for a very small percentage of the champagne market, however, it is gaining in popularity with a number of Houses producing highly regarded Brut Nature champagnes.
Champagne Billecart-Salmon‘s Brut Nature is a blend of 40% Pinot Meunier, 30% Pinot Noir and 30% Chardonnay, aged in cellar for 4 years. Billecart-Salmon CEO, Mathieu Roland-Billecart says there is definitely a trend towards lower dosage and the House has been lowering theirs in many of their cuvees over the years. In 2010 Billecart-Salmon released an Extra Brut and it has evolved over the last 10 years to become the house’s newest expression Brut Nature.
Champagne Pommery‘s Cuvee Louise Brut Nature is a vintage wine composed of 65% Chardonnay and 35% Pinot Noir, it is the flagship cuvee of the Maison and is only produced in the best vintage years. It rests on yeast for at least 10 years in the Pommery cellars. The term nature can be found on Pommery’s labels dating back to the 19th century and the house had its first success with a Brut Nature in 1874.
Chamnpagne Besserat de Bellefon‘s Triple B Brut Nature is 100% organic and biodynamic, without malolactic fermentation. Besserat de Belefon’s co-owner Godefroy Baijot states that the House launched Brut Nature to offer the consumer something more natural and authentic. “You cannot hide any faults in a wine that is completely naked” says Baijot. Triple B is composed of 10% Chardonnay, 60% Pinot Noir and 30% Meunier.
Champagne Laurent-Perrier has been a pioneer of the Brut Nature category since 1981. Laurent-Perrier’s Brut Nature is a Blanc de blancs with Chardonnay sourced from the Montagne de Reims and the Cote des Blancs.
Zero Dosage is a category that is definitely on the rise. It is particularly suitable for champagne lovers who wish to eliminate sugar from their diet because of health or medical conditions. More and more Houses are releasing Zero Dosage champagnes, options are increasing and you are sure to find a cuvee that pleases the palate.
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The Champagne Chick