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Sparkling Wines: How to Please Your Palate

Sparkling Wines How to Please Your Palate

Champagne and sparkling wines identify how sweet they are by listing the residual sugar content on the label.

The wine label also has some confusing terminology that should reveal the wine's sweetness, or lack of it. The problem is, the label does not use the words "dry" or "sweet."

"Sweet," "dry" or" in-between" is the key to pleasing your palate. Dryness is described as the lack of sweetness. If you prefer sweeter wines, you may describe "dry" wines as "bitter" or "sour."

The sweetness or dryness is determined by the "dosage" of sugar. The vintner determines the level of sugar for the finished wine by adding a mix of sugar and wine (the dosage) to each bottle, just before it is corked. A general rule of thumb is that most of us begin to perceive sweetness from 0.5% sugar to 0.7% sugar.

Below is a quick and easy guide to get home with a perfect bottle of Champagne or sparkling wine for all occasions:

The Driest:

Natural, Ultra Brut, Extra Brut, Brut Zero:

No dosage (sugar) added to 0.6% residual sugar – no sugar. Extremely dry – the driest. No perceptible sweetness.


Less than 1.5% residual sugar. Very dry.

Still Dry but not too Dry.

Extra Dry:

1.2% to 2% residual sugar. Off-dry – a slight perceptible sweetness to considerable sweetness.
Note: Extra Dry is not as dry as the two listed above

Sweet but not sweet enough to be considered a dessert wine.


1.7% to 3.5% residual sugar. Sweet.

Very Sweet – too sweet for appetizers or dinner but perfect for dessert.


3.3% to 5% residual sugar. Quite sweet.


More than 5% residual sugar. Very sweet.

The biggest selling sparkling wine style is Brut, but Extra-Dry flies off the shelf, too. If you are serving a crowd, consider purchasing both Brut and Extra-Dry, as well as the sweeter and very popular Asti-Spumante.

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