Brut vs Extra Dry, what is actually the difference? Champagne and wine in general use some expressions that not always obvious. In this guide we explore the different Champagne styles and the best food pairing for each of them.
Published April 10th 2020
Champagne is the most famous, and often the most expensive, sparkling wine. This iconic French wine is usually the reference for sparkling wines. It is usually used for celebrations and festivities, but it also pairs perfectly with a wide range of foods. There are many different types of Champagne however, and it is not always easy to know what is the difference Champagne Brut vs Extra Dry vs other styles.
Champagne is a French sparkling wine that must be produced in the Champagne region, in northern France, in order to be legally called Champagne. The wines are produced using the "méthode champenoise" (traditional method), with a second fermentation in the bottle. Only three different grape varieties can be used: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. There are many different styles of Champagne, and the wine's sweetness level can range from bone-dry to very sweet.
This style is the most common type of Champagne. It is a blend of different years’ harvests and therefore does not have a specific vintage (year). On the bottle it will just say “Champagne”, without indication of a year. This style is ready to drink and should not be aged for too long.
According to the local regulations, a non-vintage Champagne has to be aged in the bottle for 15 months. It is produced with Pinot Noir, Pinot Meunier and Chardonnay.
The great majority of Champagnes made are non-vintage. This is the typical Champagne and it's know for its light body, subtle bubbles and flavours of citrus, mineral and toast. The best food paring for this type of Champagne depends on the sweetness level. Visit our guide about sparkling wine sweetness levels to know more.
Vintage Champagne is known as the most exclusive Champagne - only 5% of Champagne is made in this style. It is made with grapes from only one year’s harvest. The year will be displayed on the label on the bottle.
A vintage Champagne must be aged in the bottle for at least three years. Vintage Champagne can include any of the three grapes Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, or Pinot Meunier. The vintage style is more difficult to make because blending is not possible. The winemaker needs to rely on the quality of the grapes from a single year's harvest. If it is a bad year, no vintage Champagne is made.
Vintage Champagne is known for having richer and bolder flavours than non-vintage Champagne. It is a rich wine with delicious flavours of brioche, nuts, baked apples, mineral, vanilla and caramel. The best food parings with vintage Champagne are less complex dishes, to let the flavours of the wine come through. Lobster, foie gras and shellfish are usually great pairings with vintage Champagne.
A Champagne "Blanc de Blancs" (white from whites) is produced with only the white grape Chardonnay. The label on the bottle will say Blanc de Blancs.
This type of Champagne is usually lighter and has more distinct flavours of citrus and tropical fruit. Blanc de Blancs tend to be slightly more crisp and dry compared to the most familiar non vintage Champagnes. This Champagne style is great with seafood, deep-dried fish and as an aperitif.
A Champagne "Blanc de Noirs" (white from reds) is produced with only the red grapes Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier. It can either be made with both of the grape varieties or only one of them. The label on the bottle will say Blanc de Noirs.
This style is made with the juice from red grapes, but the wine itself is white. The grapes' juice is pressed very lightly so it does not transfer any pigments from the grape skins to the wine.
Blanc de Noirs Champagne is usually more rich and has slightly more body than Champagne containing Chardonnay grapes. It has distinct berry flavours and pairs well with grilled fish, deep-fried vegetables, seafood and charcuterie.
Rosé Champagne is a pink Champagne coloured by the dark pigment from the Pinot Noir and Pinot Meunier grapes.
This style usually gets its characteristic pink color by adding a little bit of red wine into the existing white wine. This method is very uncommon when making still rosé wine, but it is often used in Champagne as it is very beneficial for winemakers, who can create rosé Champagne on demand. Just like white Champagne, the rosé style can be made non-vintage or vintage.
Champagne rosé has red fruit flavours and earthy aromas. It pairs well with charcuterie, duck, finger foods or as an aperitif. It also pairs well with fruity, berries and berry cakes if they are not too sweet.
If you want a Champagne with almost no sugar, you should look for a Brut Nature och Extra Brut. This style is a bone-dry wine with a high acidity.
Sparkling wine needs to have 0-6 grams of sugar per litre in order to be classified as Extra Brut. A Brut Nature, also called Brut Zero or Champagne Zero, is the type of Champagne with the least sugar, only 0-3 grams per liter.
Brut Nature Champagne is extremely dry and acidic. It is rare to see this sweetness level, but lately it is becoming more popular. Extra Brut is also very dry, but more common to find. Both Brut Nature and Extra Brut pair well with oysters and with fatty snacks such as potato chips.
Champagne Brut is a dry wine with high acidity. Brut is the most common sweetness level for Champagne, and most people find this style pleasant to drink.
The sweetness in this style is barely noticeable, which makes many people wonder what is the difference between Champagne Brut and Extra Sec ("sec" means "dry" in French). The answer is that Brut contains less sugar and is in fact more dry than Extra Dry. The vocabulary for Champagne can be a little bit confusing, but all you need to know is that Brut is in fact more dry than Extra Dry. This style has slightly more sugar, but not more than 12 grams per liter.
This style pairs very well with many different types of food, including seafood, sushi, deep-fried foods, and as an aperitif.
Champagne Extra Sec, also called Extra Dry, is a dry sparkling wine. Even though Sec means “dry”, it is not the most dry Champagne style available. Champagne Brut Nature, Extra Brut and Brut all contain less sugar than Champagne Extra Sec. This style contains 12-17 grams of sugar per litre. At this level, the sweetness is barely noticeable, but it makes the wine feel pleasant.
The fruit character of Extra Sec is more noticeable than less sweet styles, which makes it a great pairing for deep-fried foods or semi-soft cheeses like Brie or Camembert. Due to its pleasant feeling in the mouth, this style is great to drink by itself.
Sec means “dry", but Champagne Sec actually contains quite some sugar. This style has 17-32 grams of sugar per litre, which gives it a pleasant sweetness. This style pairs very with spicy and slightly sweet foods, such as Mexican and Asian dishes.
Champagne Demi-Sec is a semi-sweet wine with 32-50 grams of sugar per litre. This style has a noticeable sweetness that is often well balanced with distinct fruity aromas. This style pairs well with spicy foods, and also semi-sweet desserts such as lemon pie and tiramisu.
Champagne Doux is a very sweet wine with more than 50 grams of sugar per litre. This style is perfect together with sweet desserts or as a dessert by itself. This style is perfect to drink after dinner or together with a birthday cake.
If you want more suggestions for Champagne and food pairing, we recommend our guide about Champagne food pairing.