Sparkling Wine Tutorial: Helping You Avoid Confusion at the Store

By Kori ~ December 22nd, 2010.

More than any other time of year, this is the season for bubbly. There are just so many opportunities to enjoy sparkling wines during the holidays. Whether you are looking for an aperitif to enjoy before Christmas dinner, celebrating your team’s big win in a bowl game, or ringing in the New Year, a good bubbly hits the spot.

Right now, your local grocery stores, wine shops, and liquor stores all have prominent displays of sparkling wines to enjoy for the many upcoming celebrations. However, the terminology used on sparkling wines can be confusing. For example, you might see a bottle labeled Extra Dry and wrongfully assume that the sparkling wine was literally extra dry, drier than what would normally be considered dry. But in fact, Extra Dry is actually sweeter than Brut (the dry standard for sparkling wines).

So, here’s a list of traditional sparkling wine terms to understand before you head to the store this holiday season:

  • Brut nature, sans dosage — no sugar added
  • Extra brut — extremely dry (less than 0.6 percent sugar)
  • Brut — dry, the most common style (less than 1.5 percent sugar)
  • Extra dry, extra sec — off-dry (1.2-2.0 percent sugar)
  • Sec — slightly sweet (1.7-3.5 percent sugar)
  • Demi-sec — sweet (3.5-5.0 percent sugar)
  • Doux — very sweet (more than 5.0 percent sugar)

For specific suggestions of sparkling wines to try, check out these recent posts:
Tasting Group: Champagne
Wine Tasting Dinner: Sparkling Wine for the Holidays


Filed under: General Wine Information, Sparkling Wine

Reader's Comments

  1. Gayle | December 22nd, 2010 at 7:15 am

    Try Shingleback Black Bubbles Sparkling Shiraz. My new favorite.

  2. Catie | December 22nd, 2010 at 11:15 am

    Gayle, It’s all my customer’s new favorite, too. Can’t keep the Black Bubbles around.

  3. Gayle | December 22nd, 2010 at 12:12 pm

    Catie, Alice Hemming with Shingleback & Red Knot US Brand Manager|Precept Wine Brands will be coming out to Eastern WA in the spring to do an Aussie tasting for the Women Who Wine. Should we hold it in your store? Would LOVE that!

  4. Guglielmo Rocchiccioli | December 22nd, 2010 at 7:07 pm

    I would like to suggest a not very expensive French champagne, that`s to say Champagne Larmandier-Bernier.


    VISUAL ANALYSIS: brilliant, intense straw yellow and as regards the effervescence the bubbles are fine, numerous and persistent

    OLFACTORY ANALYSIS: at the beginning, it is possible to identify the citrus fruit and if you bring the glass at the nose, you will receive a good portion of the flavour of carbon dioxide. The rest of the olfactory bouquet is composed by sponge cake, hazelnut, peanuts, toasting scent, green banana, lemon leaf, whitethorn and lemon flower.

    GUSTATIVE ANALYSIS: elegant, harmonic and balanced. It does not exist a substance or a sensation which prevails on the other; the final is lemon flavoured. The gustative persistence is about 4 seconds.

    WINE-FOOD COMBINATION: aperitif with finger food

    MY PERSONAL OPINION: a good champagne which exceeds a little bit in the sensation of carbon dioxide, due to the fact that the liqueur de tirage is full of sugar substances residue which confers more carbon dioxide odour and much more alcohol. The champagne arrives at the mouth with a velvet touch like a true blanc de blancs and therefore it is not so effervescent at the palate as the pinot noir was present in the grape blend.

    Making reference to the champagne comparison, this champagne is better than a Pommery and G.H. Mumm, but quite far from a Egly-Ouriet and Philpponnat. It is a well-made product that i does not exceed, partly because the price is too high.

  5. Kori | December 22nd, 2010 at 8:29 pm

    Gayle and Catie,
    Thanks for the Black Bubbles recommendation. It’s been a while since I’ve had a Sparkling Shiraz. I’ll have to check out the Shingleback. Cheers!

  6. wine tasting course | January 2nd, 2011 at 2:42 am

    Shingleback Black Bubbles Sparkling Shiraz is one of my favorite Sparkling Shiraz too – excellent recommendation.

    Haven’t tried Champagne Larmandier-Bernier, will have to give it a go. I would certainly want to know what the others have to say about it.

    Thanks guys!!