19 January, 2002

No sugar of course

"Now I can get drunk and watch my figure at the same time! Cheers!"

It may not be one of the most convincing points from an article, I read recently, about champagne with absolutely no sugar added. But it is still a point.

Champagne with no sugar, you may ask? For whatever champagne is or is not - generally speaking anyway - it is normally far away from anything like sweetness. One of the characteristics of champagne is the freshness, that historically was due to the fact that the grapes simply did not mature in this northern region. Therefore sugar was added. And it is not even all.

Dosage of sugar and wine
At the time of the proces called dégorgement - that is the moment where you replace the temporary plastic capsule with the final cork and muselet - you add the liqueur de expédition just before the cork is put for good.

This liqueur is a blend of sugar and wine of your own choice. It is used to adjust the final taste of the champagne. After the second fermentation there will not be as much as a gram of sugar left in the bottle.

When it - 200 years ago - became fashionable to drink champagne, the beverage was even sweet, and that would certainly not have been possible without adding sugar.

It was Jeanne Alexandrine Louise Pommery - the grand old lady of the brand Pommery - who as something very new, very courageous and just about unbelievable in the end of the 19th century introduced the brut with a much lower content of sugar than ever seen before in the English market.

Brut - a matter of sugar
A bottle of brut cannot contain more than maximum 15 gram of sugar per litre. Much less than the sweet champagne - the doux - that contains more than three times as much (50 gram sugar per liter).

The brut' became so popular, that 95 percent of the sales today has this grade of sweetness.

The English however want their champagne even drier. The last ten years a relatively new type of champagne, that does not contain any sugar at all, has begn to emerge.

The wild brut
This type is typically sold under names such as ultra brut, brut sauvage or brut zéro.

Such champanges can be on the sour side, if they are drunk too young, and quite a different story, if they have aged well and enough. To put it in other words - if you want to try one of these less-sugar champagnes, you'd better consider buying a bottle that is not the youngest one around.

The ultra brut-champagnes still make up only a very small part of the total sales, but they are growing fast, the technical director of CIVC, Dominique Moncomble, said to the French newsagency AFP in October last year. (Read the story here).

Bollinger, Ayala (owned by Bollinger), Piper Heidsieck and Laurent-Perrier are amongst the big producers of champagnes with no sugar in their assortment.

På dansk

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