What Does Brut Mean Anyway?

Sec. Extra Dry. Demi-Sec. Brut. Extra Brut. Brut Nature.

Hm.. What does all this mean?

For wine consumers not well versed in label lexicon, many of these are terms established long ago by the French to designate sweetness levels of Champagne.

For most of the 19th century, Champagne was made sweet to satisfy the tastes of wine consumers of the day. As tastes evolved from sweeter wines, Champagne houses responded by producing drier styles of bubbly designated by terms like “sec,” “demi-sec,” and “brut.”

Today these terms still serve to designate sweetness levels of sparkling wines throughout the world and also to confuse consumers.

So, what does Brut mean anyway? Here’s a basic guide to making sense of sparkling wine styles.


Brut Nature / Ultra Brut / Extra Brut / Brut Zero:
(The driest sparkling wines — No dosage, No added sugar.)

Brut: Should taste dry with no perception of sweetness. This is the most common style of sparkling wine you’ll find in local bottle stores.

Extra Dry/Extra Sec:Off dry — tastes slightly sweet.

Sec: Tastes noticeably sweet.

Demi-Sec: Sweet.

Doux: The sweetest sparkling wines

These sweetness levels may vary slightly across some regions and producers.


A few other terms you are likely to find on labels of your favorite bubbly:

Méthode Champenoise — Also known as méthode traditionnelle, or the traditional method. As the name suggests, this is the traditional method of making Champagne whereby secondary fermentation occurs in the bottle while the wine ages. This method is used to make sparkling wines in many other parts of the world as well.

Blanc de Blanc — French for white from white. Made entirely from Chardonnay grapes.

Blanc de Noir — French for white from black. Made from Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier or a blend of the two grapes.

NV — Non-Vintage. Meaning the bottle of sparkling wine is a blend of juice from more than one vintage (year). Producers blend base wines from multiple vintages to offer a consistent house style from year to year.

Remember, Champagne, Cava, Prosecco and all sparkling wines should be enjoyed any day of any week… not just on celebratory occasion and holidays. Sparkling wine makes any day a celebration!


Leave a Reply