Most wine drinkers know that Champagne refers to the bubbly wines only grown and produced in Champagne, France. Other similar wines from beyond Champagne are generally designated ‘sparkling.’ Here we explore another Champagne distinction: non-dosé, or non-dosage Champagne from France.
Non-dosé at its simplest refers to Champagne that has no sugar added. Now let’s back up.
During the Champagne production cycle, yeast grows and dies as it feeds inside the Champagne bottles over months and years. Slowly, over time, Champagne bottles are inverted so that the dead yeast falls into the neck of the bottle, where it will be “disgorged” at the right time. When this time comes, the bottles are popped open quickly, and the yeast “plug,” along with some precious drops of wine, pops out.
Before the bottle is resealed and rested back on its rack, it is customary to add some more grape must, or sugar-based sweetener (“dosage”) to the bottle. This serves not only to top up the bottle, but also to balance the acids and flavors of the Champagne.
Now, how much sugar are we talking about? Anywhere from a dropper-full, to several droppers-full, depending upon the intended sweetness. Some Champagne makers regularly add a higher sugar dosage in order to achieve a recognizable, consistent flavor for their consumers.
Others have broken away from this tradition. Champagnes that are non-dosed are called, in French, “non-dosé.” According to many SFGate.com, eliminating additional late-process sugaring allows for the true nature of the Champagne to … okay, sparkle. The resulting beverage is typically more lively and clear — drier certainly. In many cases the Champagne tastes more like the wine it’s made of.
And that’s one of the key secrets to making an excellent non-dosé Champagne: palatepress.com. Many Champagne makers use only the grapes from their estate that are known to produce the most exceptionally robust, sweet and ripe grapes.
According to Chow.com of Chow.com, un-retouched Champagne is not entirely new. Laurent-Perrier has been producing ‘Grand Vin sans Sucre’ since the 1800s. It is more perhaps a statement of today’s no-sugar-added marketing hype that has given rise to a new interest in this type of Champagne. Even so, some early adopters were taking a risk with their known consumer base by reducing added sugar by up to 20%. But behind this gamble was a definite knowledge of and belief in the quality and flavor of their grapes.
Non-dosé Champagnes are also known under the names of Ultra Brut, Extra Brut, Brut Zero, Brut Natural, and Dosage Zero.
We recommend not saving non-dosé Champagnes only for special occasions, but enjoying them with seafood, warmed oysters or winter soups, or with hearty appetizers at a backyard gathering.