As you shop for Italian sparkling wine, you may have come across the term “Brut” a few times. Seemingly randomly applied to some bottles and not to others, Brut seems like the term we’d use for a wine that is of exceptional quality.
That can be the case.
However, it’s not the full story.
Brut actually has a very specific in the world of wine. Understanding that meaning helps you get closer to finding the sparkling wine that suits your palate best. So, in this article, we’re going to dive into what it means for a wine to be Brut.
What Does Brut Mean?
Anybody who is familiar with Champagne knows that the Brut style is the most popular in the world. It’s this fact that likely leads to the misconception that Brut is a signature of quality. We assume that the Brut label being on the most popular types of sparkling wine must mean that the wine is of exceptional quality.
But what Brut really refers to is the dryness of the wine.
Sparkling wines are generally referred to as either sweet or dry, though there are many gradients in between those two hard and fast ratings. These aren’t signifiers of quality. Instead, the sweet and dry labels simply tell you a little more about what you can expect from the wine you’re purchasing.
If a wine is sweet, you can expect it to have stronger fruity flavours, making it ideal for pairing with desserts or even for drinking as a dessert wine itself. Dry wines are typically a little more acidic, in addition to containing less sugar than their sweet contemporaries.
And that brings us back to the word Brut.
We use Brut to signify the driest of sparkling wines. In fact, the word can translate from the original French to mean “dry” “raw” and even “unrefined”. That last one is a bit of a misnomer as there are many Brut wines that are remarkably refined.
But to simplify things, if you’re buying a Brut wine, that means you’re getting a dry wine.
Other Ratings to Be Aware of
While we use Brut to signify that a wine is dry, there are actually several variations of the term.
Starting with Brut, this means that the wine contains no more than 12 grams of sugar per litre. You’ll notice this upon drinking, as the wine’s fruitier notes will be a bit more mellow than they would be in a sweeter equivalent.
Then, we have Extra Brut.
As the name implies, this type of wine is a little dryer than standard Brut. The wine’s acidity will really start to stand out with an Extra Brut wine. You should also find that the wine makes your mouth water more when you drink it.
Next up is Brut Nature, which can also be referred to as Brut Zero.
In the world of sparkling white wines, these are the most intense and acidic that you will find. Remarkably refreshing, Brut Nature wines pack a lot of flavour into a package that is designed to make your mouth water.
All three types of these wines are dry wines. It’s just the measure of dryness that changes.
For the sake of clarity, we should also look at the opposite end of the spectrum.
The term for a wine that contains more than 12 grams of sugar per litre while still having a hint of acidity is “Sec”. Extra Sec means that the wine is a touch dry but has more sweetness than you would expect from a Brut wine.
Then, we have Demi-Sec, which means the wine is even sweeter. It’s these wines that tend to emphasise their fruitier notes. Finally, we have Doux, which means the wine is as sweet as can be. These wines contain so much sugar that they can give a can of Coca-Cola a run for its money.
So, you’re looking for Brut if you want a dry wine and Sec if sweetness if your thing.
How Are Brut Sparkling Wines Made
There are three methods that a producer can use to make a Brut sparkling wine. They are:
- Traditional – This is the method used to make champagne. It’s labour-intensive and costly, which is why sparkling wines made using this method tend to cost more.
- Tank Method – The least expensive method, this one uses large steel tanks to allow for secondary fermentation.
- Transfer Method – Think of this as a mix between Traditional and Tank. The wine still ferments in the bottle, as we see with the Traditional Method. However, it is transferred to tanks for the purposes of filtering out sediment.
We could go into more detail here…
But we’ve already written an in-depth article on the three methods for creating sparkling wine that you can check out.
How Should You Drink Brut Wines?
We can approach this question in two directions.
The first relates to how you should serve the wine.
Most recommend drinking a Brut sparkling wine from a Champagne flute. However, some experts say this restricts the aroma, meaning a more traditional white wine glass may be better suited to the wine. Just note that a wider glass means that the bubbles dissipate faster, leading to the wine going flat. So, this comes down to whether you prioritise the flavour profile or the bubbles.
Our second direction relates to the foods you should serve with Brut wine.
The dry and acidic nature of these wines means that they can cut through rich flavours fairly easily. As such, the wines work surprisingly well with red meats and desserts. They’re great with anything that contains a lot of butter, as well as pairing well with many types of cheeses.
Are You Looking for a Brut Wine?
Are you missing a little bit of dryness in your Italian sparkling wines? Now that you know what Brut means, you can ensure that the sparkling wines you buy are more suitable for your palate.
All that’s left is to get your hands on a Brut wine. The Xtrawine collection contains many examples so it’s difficult to choose just one. But if you’d like an affordable starter point for Brut sparkling wines, why not try the Joly Champagne Brut Elegance? Available for less than €30, this gorgeous wine will give you a good taste of the Brut experience.
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