Sparkling Wine Sweetness Levels

Sparkling wine sweetness levels vary from dry and crisp to very sweet and aromatic. There are different sweetness levels and it is not always easy to know which sweetness level is the right one for your food and preferences. What is actually the difference between brut, extra dry and demi-sec?

Sparkling wine glasses with no apparent signs of sparkling wine sweetness

Last updated May 7th 2020

Wine producers use different words to describe how sweet the sparkling wine is and, depending on the type or region of sparkling wine, the same level of sweetness may be called differently. In this guide you will learn everything you need to know about sparkling wine sweetness levels and how sweetness intensity affects the flavors of the food you drink the wine with.

 

Sparkling wine sweetness levels

Extra Brut and Brut Nature

Extra Brut is the level with the least amount of sugar. Sparkling wine with this sweetness level needs to have 0-6 grams of sugar per litre. This is a bone dry wine with high acidity. Extra brut is used in most languages, but on German labels you will see Extra Herb.

If the wine says Brut Nature or Natur Herb on the label it means that is only has 0-3 grams of sugar per liter. Brut Nature is an extremely dry and acidic wine. It is quite rare to see this sweetness level on a sparkling wine list.

This level of sweetness can be indicated in one of the following versions on the label, depending on the style or region where it is made:

Brut 

It is more common to see Brut on the label than Extra Brut. This wine has less than 12 grams of sugar per litre and the sweetness is barely noticeable. Many people consider BRUT more pleasant than Extra Brut, but it is a matter of taste and preference. Most countries use Brut on their labels, but in Germany the label will have the indication Herb.

Brut is the most popular sweetness level of Champagne. Some of the best Champagnes are produced in this sweetness level, and it goes very well with seafood and sushi. Many Cava sparkling wines are also produced with this sweetness level, which makes Cava an excellent and affordable alternative to Champagne.

This level of sweetness can be indicated in one of the following ways on the label:

Extra Sec

Extra Sec sparkling wine has 12-17 grams of sugar per liter. Sec means “dry” and for many people this is a little bit confusing, since Extra Brut and Brut wines are in fact more dry than Extra Sec wines… At this level we can start to feel the sweetness. You will still not get overwhelmed with sugar, but you will probably notice a more distinct fruit character.

Extra Sec can also be labelled as Extra Dry, Extra Seco and Extra Trocken depending on the country where the wine is produced. The Italian wine Moscato d’Asti is a great example of sparkling wine with this sweetness level. It is very aromatic with low alcohol which gives the perception of being sweeter than it is.

This sweetness level is excellent for apéritifs, but also with fatty snacks (chips!) and foods that require a wine with high acidity.

This level of sweetness can be indicated in one of the following ways on the label:

Sec

Sec sparkling wine has 17-32 grams of sugar per litre. Sec means “dry”, but this level is actually relatively sweet. The wine does not taste like candy, but at this level you will notice a pleasant sweetness. 

This level of sweetness can be indicated in one of the following ways on the label:

Tips! This sweetness level matches well with spicy and slightly sweet foods, such as Asian and Mexican dishes.

Demi-Sec

Demi-sec sparkling wine has 32-50 grams of sugar per litre. Sparkling wines with this level have noticeable sweetness, but are often well balanced. They are usually more fruity than the other levels because the sweetness can be confused with the wine's fruity aromas. Even this level pairs well with spicy foods, but it is also good with semi-sweet desserts such as lemon pie and tiramisu. Lambrusco is a good example of a sweet sparkling red wine with noticeable sweetness. Look for “Amabile” on the label if you want to try this semi-sweet Italian sparkling wine.

This level of sweetness can be indicated in one of the following ways on the label:

Doux

Doux sparkling wines have more than 50 grams of sugar per litre. This is a very sweet sparkling dessert wine and it is perfect to drink together with desserts or as a dessert itself. Sparkling wine doesn’t always need to be drunk before the meal, it can also be an excellent option to finish it. A sweet champagne, for example, is a great way to finish a birthday dinner or any other celebration.

This level of sweetness can be indicated in one of the following ways on the label:

Tips! This sweetness level is the best one if you are having your sparkling wine together with a birthday cake.

Enjoy your sparkling wine!