When it comes to finding fine wine, you may here a preference for signature red wines like Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, or even a smoky Syrah–or perhaps a zestier white wine like Zinfandel, but rarely does the term Brut Wine come up.
Yet many of the best and most prized wine is in fact Brut wine. Brut wine is being showcased right now in celebration of Bastille Day in France and even parts of the United States. Bastille Day, not unlike the Fourth of July in the United States, is marked by parades, celebrations, entertainment and a display of fireworks. Bastille Day, celebrated on the fourteenth of July, marks the anniversary of the same day in the year 1789 when Frech troops stormed the Bastille, a prison in Paris that was heavily crowded during the height of the French Revolution.
Though the French Revolution–essentially an uprising of common citizens against the extravagance of the bourgeoisie-was not resolved on that day, Bastille Day is a day of national pride and seen as a pivotal turning point and is today a day os great celebration.
And one of the most beloved ways to celebrate is with Brut wines and champagnes. The tartness and vibrant, pronounced notes plays especially well with fizzling carbonation.
But what is Brut wine, and why is it so popular for festivities? In this article, we’ll show you why the best Brut wines will give you every reason to celebrate, and even more so, how to find the best varieties possible.
Where does the word Brut come from?
The word Brut is French, and originally it translated as raw or crude. Over time, however, the word has become synonymous with certain wines and is now more accurately understood as dry, or unsweetened.
What does it mean to call a wine dry?
First things first. While this may likely be obvious to anyone who drinks wine, to others new to wine the term dry can be misunderstood. Dry refers to the number of sugars in the wine. When grapes are first harvested, they have differing sugar levels depending on the variety, but they still are naturally sweet. During the fermentation process, some of those sugars are lost.
Sweet wines, such as Moscato and Port wines, are high in residual sugars, while dry wines have little residual sugars. So when we call a wine dry, we are essentially saying that there are not many sugars you’ll taste.
Is Brut the same as dry wine?
Dry wine includes favorites like Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Chianti. Dry wines are favored for savory food pairings, especially meats and seafood but also pasta dishes and other savory vegetarian options.
But it’s a mistake to equate Brut with all dry wines. Brut is a level of dryness, just as you would say a semi-dry wine vs a dry wine. Let’s take a look at the scale of sweetness in wine and see where Brut wines fall:
- Doux or sweet wines: These wines have the highest level of residual sugars are considered dessert wines, aptly named because they are paired with sweet treats such as cakes, fresh fruit, and even chocolate. Examples we have not yet mentioned include Vouvray, Sweet Riesling, and Tokaj. To be classified as a sweet wine, the wine must contain over five percent residual sugars per liter.
- Demi-Sec wines: Wines in this category still have notable residual sugars, though far less so than sweet wines. These wines contain three to five percent residual sugar per liter. They can be still used as dessert wines, though more commonly paired with slightly lower sugar treats, such as fruit as opposed to the cake. Examples of demi-sec wines are often used to describe a variety of sparkling wines, including certain sweeter Champagne from the Loire Valley.
- Sec wines or dry wines contain one point seven to three point five percent residual sugars per liter and just escape the category of sweeter wines. Sec or dry wines encompass a wide range of wines you might first think of and are nicely paired with savory meals without feeling overpowering and still bringing of lighter notes.
- Extra Dry wines contain from one point two up to two percent of residual sugars. Some white wines especially fall into this category–depending on the variety, Sauvignon Blanc, Muscadet, and Albarino can be an extra dry wine.
- Brut wines are even less sweet, with just one point five percent of residual sugars per liter. Sweetness is nearly undetectable and makes for pronounced tart, bitter notes. There are some wines that are even drier, which as referred to as Extra Brut wines.
See the complete comparison between Brut and Extra Dry Wine here
What are general types of wines fall under the category of Brut wines?
Brut wines mostly applying to the Champagne and sparkling wines that have the least amount of residual sugars. Typically referring to wines from France, Spain, but also some in the United States, they are indeed on the dry side but the zip of carbonation lifts those more bitter notes so they do not come across quite as dry as they actually are.
What are some basic qualities of Brut wines?
But wines, as we mentioned, often contain carbonation are known for their crisp, accented notes. Though it’s very dry, other notes do come through. It’s especially refreshing and pleasing and in some ways more flavorful than sweet sparkling wine.
What’s the difference between Champagne and Brut wine?
There technically isn’t a difference. This is a common misunderstanding, but Champagne is actually a specific, highly prized type of Brut wine.
True Champagne can only be produced and grown in Champagne, France. The sparkling wine is your most expensive option (which we will explore in a minute) and is produced by a special method called Champenoise. After grapes are picked and allowed to ferment, the result is then blended and bottled with yeast and sugar.
The second fermentation is what produces Champagne’s carbonation and then it’s stored for at least fifteen months upside down. The soil and weather of the Champagne region are said to produce exceptional wine. It’s also during the second fermentation that the Champagne collects sediment called “lees”. Eventually, the old yeast will be removed.
Technically, anything outside of the Champagne region is sparkling wine.
Is all Champagne Brut?
No. While some of the most esteemed Champagnes are Brut wines, Champagne, like other wines, comes in a range of sweetness. The level of sweetness is determined after the second fermentation when yeast is removed. A dosage of sugar and wine in different concentrations may be added for different levels of sweetness.
For Extra Brut wine, no sugar at all is added, and so forth.
How much do Brut wines cost?
As you can imagine, the price range of Brut wines vary quite a bit, and much of that depends not only specific variety but also region. Luckily, many Brut wines are actually quite affordable, which makes them that much more popular when it comes to wines for celebration purposes. The most budget-friendly Brut wines include:
- Spanish Cava, which can cost as little as nine to fifteen dollars per bottle. Not all Cava is Brut, but the Cava that is made for an excellent deal and still allows you to get the experience of Brut wines.
- American sparkling wines that tend to be Brut wines include a variety that starts at around twenty dollars and goes up in price. Some of the leading producers include Gloria Ferrer, Mumm Napa, and Roederer Estate.
- French sparkling wines are French wines made outside of Champagne and also known by the term “cremant”. Normally, starting prices are around just under twenty dollars per bottle and can go up into the hundreds of dollars.
- Champagne is the most expensive option for Brut wines. While you can find some bottles for as little as thirty dollars, these are not considered the best examples, and a decent bottle usually costs around forty to fifty dollars. Prices vary widely, with vintage wines costing the most, and also depending on the prestige of the vineyard.
What should I know about acidity?
Acidity plays an important role in Brut wines. Acidity in wine, in general, makes for a crisp, bright taste and can also be quite complementary with ripe fruit flavors. Many describe acidity as akin to the taste and experience you’d get with a Granny Smith apple. Champagne especially is known for its high levels of acidity.
Acidity is desirable in brut wines, especially because many Brut wines are sparkling wines. Higher levels of acidity support the crisp punchiness you expect with a carbonated wine and also leave the impression of something fresh and dry. Too low levels of acidity mean you will not get that signature crispness you want in a Brut wine. Aim for high levels of acidity.
Of course, exceptionally high levels of acidity make wines less palatable.
What are the most common forms of Brut wine, and what flavors are they known for?
In terms of finding the best Brut wine, the following are great options. For each type, it’s important to note what signature flavor notes to look for.
- Champagne: Brut Champagne, despite its dry notes, is notable for its bright fruity flavors. Pear and apple are the most common flavors. For warmer regions, there should be a bit of bright stone fruit such as peaches and apricots. There should also be slightly yeasty notes from the fermentation. While there are some more full-bodied champagne styles, the bright acidity and crispness do just fine with a lighter body.
- Cava: Brut Cava is a Spanish sparkling wine tends to have a more gentle level of acidity than Champagne and is a bit less crisp but more balanced overall. Fennel with floral notes is a common profile, often accentuated with light citrus fruit.
- Prosecco: Prosecco is perhaps Italy’s most favored sparkling wine and it ranges from dry to Extra Brut. Despite its very dry nature, it tastes sweeter due to pleasant fruity flavors, most notably tart apple, pear, honeysuckle and a bit of melon. A hint of floral notes makes it a playful, spirited choice for Brut wine.
- Other French Brut wines include Blanc de Blanc and Blanc de Noir. Blanc de Blanc is made exclusively from Chardonnay grapes, while Blanc de Noir is made from a blend of Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. However, Blanc de Noir is sometimes considered off Brut, not quite dry enough to be classified as such. Blanc de Blanc offers a vibrant complexity; you should look for peach, yellow apples, and Meyer lemons.
How do I know how much carbonation I’ll be getting?
The degree of carbonation is determined by the method.
- The tank method, which is used for Prosecco, produces stronger, yeasty flavors and tends to produce more affordable Brut sparkling wines, but the bubbles are weaker and less pronounced
- In the traditional method, which covers both Champagne and Cava, produces more vibrant carbonation where fermentation occurs inside the bottle.
Should I worry about aging when it comes to Brut wines?
Aging does, in fact, play a role in Brut wines. Aging adds the complexity of flavors. Both Cava and Champagne are considered excellent aged. With Cava, you’ll get added nutty notes, making it feel warmer and vibrant. Aging Champagne results in toasted notes that pair well with the bright stone fruit flavors.
So what are the basics to finding the best Brut wines?
When looking for a Brut wine, you still need to determine your taste preferences as well as your price point.
- The best Brut wines are high in acidity, with the firm and pronounced tannins, and typically complemented by lighter and bright fruit and floral notes.
- If you want a sparkling Brut wine but don’t mind softer carbonation, Spanish Cava is a good way to go. It’s highly affordable, available, and still features bright acidity and a punch. It’s also a great pick if you are wary of Brut wines because the sweeter flavor notes make it taste a bit less dry.
- If you want nice complexity without the price tag of Champagne, consider a French sparkling wine like Blanc de Blanc.
- If you’re looking for some warmth, more aged Brut wines will provide it, with toasted and nutty notes. Aging also keeps dry nature while making it feel less severe.
- Looking for the ultimate Brut wine experience? Go for a true Champagne. There’s a reason why Champagne reigns supreme in terms of Brut wines. With crisp acidity, vibrant carbonation, and some of the finest it terms of bright fruit flavors, it’s without a doubt an excellent option. You don’t have to buy the most expensive vintage option but aim to spend around fifty or sixty dollars for a nice bottle.
- Pay attention to the level of residual sugars which will tell you if it’s truly a Brut wine. Remember that all the wines we mentioned can be made as Brut wines, but they can also be produced with higher levels of residual sugars.
- Pay attention to the method, with sparkling wines, which will clue you in on what levels of carbonation to expect.
- Regions do matter. For true Champagne, it must come from Champagne, France. Spain, for Cava, and Italy for Prosecco are your best bets.
Do you have any suggestions for starting trying to find the best Brut wines?
Looking to find the best Brut wine can be overwhelming, but here are some Brut wines to get you started, no matter your personal preferences for flavors, levels of carbonation, and desired price point.
- Champagne Palmer Brut Reserve Non-Vintage Sparkling Wine from Champagne, France: This may be a non-vintage wine but it is a great bargain, for under sixty dollars a bottle, and now it’s becoming increasingly available in the United States as well. Ripe citrus and pear make for pronounced, bright flavors with toasted oats and buttery notes you’d find in some more expensive bottles.
- Freixenet Sparkling Cordon Negro Brut Cava: For just ten dollars, you can get a signature Spanish Cava with some signature Brut touches. While the price may seem unbelievable, keep in mind that Cava runs cheaper in general than many Brut wines. Balanced, with crisp pear, apple, and citrus, it’s a pleasing way to try a Brut wine, especially if it’s your first time. Just a bit of ginger adds some interesting spice.
- Francois Montand Brut Blanc de Blancs: If you delight in the taste or idea of Champagne, consider trying a Brut Blanc de Blancs first. This wine, in particular, is highly affordable but has well-formed bubbles carrying the taste of Meyer lemons and yellow apples, with that signature yeasty taste complemented with a long finish.
- Foss Marai Prosecco Brut Guia Millesimato: Medium bodied and featuring the flavors of green apples and overall pleasant composition, this Brut Prosecco comes from Veneto, Italy. It’s described as flavorful but also elegant, with floral notes to round off the bright, acidic apple notes.