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Champagne Sweetness Scale: From Brut to Doux

In an attempt to show what sweetness in sparkling wine really is, we filled each glass with the actual amount of granulated sugar (in grams).

Brut Nature
(a.k.a. Brut Zero) 0–2 calories
0-3 g/l Residual Sugar (RS) is equivalent to less than 1/6 teaspoon sugar per 5 oz/150 ml serving. A total of 91–93 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.
Extra Brut
0–5 calories
0-6 g/l RS is equivalent to less than ¼ teaspoon sugar per 5 oz/150 ml serving. A total of 91–96 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.
Brut
0–7 calories
0-12 g/l RS is equivalent to less than ½ teaspoon sugar per 5 oz/150 ml serving. A total of 91–98 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.
Extra Dry
7–10 calories
12-17 g/l RS is equivalent to ½–¾ teaspoon sugar per 5 oz/150 ml serving. A total of 98–101 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.
Dry
10–20 calories
17-32 g/l RS is equivalent to ¾-1 teaspoon sugar per 5 oz/150 ml serving. A total of 101–111 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.
Demi-Sec
20-30 calories
32-50 g/l RS is equivalent to 1–2 teaspoons sugar per 5 oz/150 ml serving. A total of 111–121 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.
Doux
over 30 calories
50+ g/l RS is equivalent to over 2 teaspoons sugar per 5 oz/150 ml serving. More than 121 calories per serving of 12 % ABV sparkling wine.

Brut has a lot of wiggle room in sweetness, whereas Extra Brut and Brut Nature are very focused in their sugar content. So, if you want to keep it on the dry side, opt for Extra Brut or Brut Nature if it’s available.

Where does the sweetness come from?

Brut Champagne is a level of sweetness in sparkling wine. The sweetness comes from a step in the Champagne making process called “dosage” (“doe-sazj”) which is when a small amount of sugar or grape must is added back into the wine before corking the bottle. Because sparkling wine is traditionally very acidic, the purpose of this sweetness is to reduce the intensity of tartness.

You can think of it like adding a little sugar to coffee to “round out” the flavor.

Over time, sparkling wine producers realized that people’s sweetness preference varied and this is why there are several options. from Brut Nature has no added sugar and Doux has 50 or more grams per liter of residual sugar –equivalent to just over 2 teaspoons of sugar per glass.

How much sugar is in Champagne compared to other drinks?

One of the most fascinating things about wine is how little sugar it takes to make wine taste sweet. If you look at how many grams of sugar are actually in a 5 oz serving (150 ml) glass of sparkling wine, it’s actually quite low compared to other beverages–even the sweetest Demi Sec style!

Sugar (grams) in tasty drinkss
0g
Vodka Soda
.5g
Brut Nature Sparkling Wine
2g
Brut Sparkling Wine
8g
Demi Sec Sparkling Wine
14g
Gin & Tonic
16g
Honest Tea Green Tea
17g
Starbucks 2% Milk Grande Latte
20g
Margarita on the rocks (made w/ simple syrup)
33g
Jack & Coke

So… why does Champagne give me a headache?

If you’ve been blaming sugar as the culprit for why you keep getting Champagne headaches… well, this might not be the case. As a regular wine drinker (I usually consume at least a bottle a week of bubbles) I used to get Champagne headaches really bad. Here’s what was happening to me, which might also be happening to you:

  1. You Don’t Feel Thirsty: Bubbles quench your thirst so you don’t drink as much water. Try to drink at least 1 glass of water with each glass of wine.
  2. You Drink More: It’s easy to drink a whole bottle of Champagne because of its quaffable style. Whereas, a bottle of rich dark red wine is a little more of a slow arduous process.
  3. You Drink Late: Sparkling wine goes along with late night entertainment such as New Year’s parties, clubbing and other debaucherous activities. Plus, that hot tub you’re in will also dehydrate you (you sweat in hot water–you just can’t tell).

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About Madeline Puckette

I'm a certified sommelier and creator of the NYT Bestseller, Wine Folly: The Essential Guide to Wine. Find me out there in the wine world @WineFolly