Sweetie…can you please pass me the champagne?
I was recently in Champagne with friends looking for their perfect bottle for their wedding toast. Sipping different champagnes from blanc de blanc, Rosé or Vintage, we noted that nobody was interested to try the demi- sec aka the sweeter ones.
My friends preference was for the driest style called zero-dosage or brut nature, personally I liked the Brut as I am not a fan of those uber-dry champagne.
I need some sugar to balance the acidity. When looking for a champagne, the word “dry” or “sec” in French can be confusing because it’s not the term for the driest style which will be Brut Nature, sans dosage, zero dosage.
The dosage being that final addition to the sparkling wine to rectify it if it’s too dry with some sugar cane, vintage wines to give it a recognisable signature taste from the house. Moet and Chandon for instance will always taste the same also thanks to the liqueur de dosage.
Earlier in the 20th century, champagne lovers would drink their favourite sparkling sweet preferably when having desert. Now we love champagne for aperitif before a meal or at a cocktail reception to pair with a range of canapés. A sweet champagne wouldn’t be appropriate for the occasion. And when it comes to wine, for white wines you hear people asking for dry even mineral options. The sauvignon blanc being more popular than the côteaux du Layon basically… So we have turned into sugar snubs. Fewer people are having desert wines, port or sweet sherry. Unless it’s a special occasion like Christmas and that digestive after a 4 hours meal becomes a necessity to help you roll from the table to the sofa with style. Our generation of drinkers is probably more suspicious towards sugar. We are also better informed of the risk of over sugar consumption and the cardiovascular disease, cancer and diabetes risk resulting from an over consumption of industrially refined sugar. So we have even turned sugar into this big evil… you have probably all seen this trend “going sugar free” and supposedly feeling amazing.
But sometimes it’s easy to mix sweetness and fruitness.. A wine can be fruity and dry. All fruits aren’t sweet after all, picture a kiwi or a grapefruit. Hints of those flavours in your wine will make it fruity but the wine can still be bone dry. Tricky isn’t it? It gets worst when the wine is very acidic because that acidity will mask the sugar content. Imagine when you are having a freshly squeezed lemon juice, adding some sugar will make the acidity more bearable and even pleasant however the sugar wouldn’t be too obvious.
According to the EU a dry wine should have a residual sugar content below 9g/L (residual sugar is the content of sugar left in the wine and that wasn’t transformed into alcohol during the fermentation). It means around 2 sugar spoons for by litre, basically nothing compared to a coke! When a proper sweet wine like sauterne will have around 120g/liter of sugar, that’s more than 30 teaspoon for sugar per litre.. but Sauternes has such a lovely acidity, you wouldn’t think the sugar is sticky when Riesling sweetness could be a bit overpowering.
So is sugar bad in wine or champagne or is a trend that is pushing us towards “healthier” options? I am not sure but it seems the trend has been here for quite some time and is going to stick around. What about you do you still drink sweet wines?