Why is Brut called Brut?

Answered by James Porterfield

Brut is called “Brut” because it is the driest classification of Champagne. The term “Brut” comes from the French word meaning “dry, raw, or unrefined.” This name accurately reflects the character and taste profile of Brut Champagne, which is known for its lack of sweetness.

The classification of Champagne is determined by the amount of added sugar, known as dosage, in the final product. Brut Champagne must have less than 12 grams of added sugar per liter. This low dosage results in a dry taste that is less sweet compared to other classifications such as Extra Dry or Demi-Sec.

The term “Brut” originated in the 19th century when Champagne houses began experimenting with different levels of sweetness in their wines. Prior to this, Champagne was often much sweeter, as the practice of adding sugar to the after fermentation was common. However, as tastes evolved and drier styles became more popular, producers started reducing the amount of added sugar.

The designation of “Brut” became a way for Champagne houses to distinguish their drier offerings from the sweeter ones. It was a way to communicate to consumers that the wine was less sweet and had a more crisp and refreshing taste. The term “Brut” was chosen to convey the idea of simplicity and lack of refinement, as these drier styles were considered more natural and closer to the original character of the wine.

In addition to the sugar content, other factors contribute to the dryness of Brut Champagne. One important factor is the level of acidity in the grapes used to make the wine. Grapes with higher acidity tend to produce wines with a crisper and drier taste. The Champagne region's cool climate and chalky soils also contribute to the natural acidity of the grapes, further enhancing the dryness of Brut Champagnes.

Personal experience-wise, I have had the pleasure of tasting various Brut Champagnes throughout my career as a sommelier. One thing that always stands out to me is the refreshing and crisp nature of these wines. The lack of sweetness allows the complex flavors and aromas of the wine to shine through, making it a versatile and enjoyable choice for many occasions.

To summarize, Brut Champagne is called “Brut” because it is the driest classification of Champagne, with less than 12 grams of added sugar per liter. The term “Brut” conveys the idea of dryness, simplicity, and lack of refinement. The evolution of taste preferences and the desire for drier styles led Champagne houses to create this classification. The natural acidity of the grapes and the region's cool climate also contribute to the dryness of Brut Champagnes. Overall, Brut Champagne offers a crisp and refreshing taste, making it a popular choice for wine enthusiasts around the world.