A friend of mine really enjoyed a glass of Champagne at a restaurant back two years ago, and described it as "sweet" and "smells good". Based on other clues and after many incorrect guesses, we finally have a good guess of the kind of Champagne (Blanc de Meunier Brut Zero) and the winery (a small one). We picked a $40 bottle of Blanc de Noir Brut Champagne at a wine store recently. My friend confirmed that it feels the same and used the same words "sweet" and "smells good" to describe it.

Now that we know it's Brut, "sweet" is clearly a lie.

  • What does "sweet" really mean when people use it to describe a bottle of Brut Champagne?
  • What's so special about Blanc de Noir Champagne, in comparison to other Champagne, that one would use the word "sweet" to describe it?
  • I'm hoping that understanding it better would help finding better and/or cheaper alternatives.

3 Answers 3


Technically, the wine is not sweet - as the residual sugar content is nowhere near the required levels.

Calling a Brut Champagne sweet, probably indicates that someone finds the wine more approachable and less ‘mineralic’ than usual - especially when compared to a Blanc de Blanc on Chardonnay.

Generally, Pinot Meunier supplies some ’plumpness’ and fruitiness to a Champagne - which in itself could be interpreted as sweetness. Personally, I sometimes find 100% Meunier very plump - a bit like a 100% Viognier white - which can give the illusion of sweetness despite the residual sugar being close to zero.


When some one uses “sweet” to describe Blanc de Noir Brut Champagne, what does it really mean?

Sweetness is a way to express the amount of residual sugars to alcohol levels in a wine or champagne.

Rough rules of thumb say if a wine's alcohol content is 10% or less it will have sweet characteristics. Wines that are even lower (especially down around 8 or 9 percent) will definitely be sweet. Wines in the 11% to 12.5% ABV range are considered 'off-dry' meaning that there is some notable residual sugar. If it’s 12.5 percent or higher, the wine will will be 'dry' and have little to no perceptible sweetness.

Most wines under 10% ABV will be sweet. Typically, wines such as German Riesling and Italian Moscato fall in this category. Wines in the range of 10.5% to 12.5% include Riesling's from Austria, Australia and the U.S., Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Grigio (a.k.a. Pinot Gris). Then, in the 12.5% to 15.5% range you find Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Sangiovese, Syrah, Grenache and Zinfandel.

But, as previously pointed out, a grape that starts with low sugar levels, and ferments to the point where all the sugar is consumed by the yeast, will result in a wine with lower alcohol levels and little to no residual sugar. So, this is why alcohol levels are not a dependable way of determining a wine's sweetness.

So, while there’s definitely a loose relationship between a wine’s residual sugar and its alcohol level, it’s not a simple relationship. But you can use the percent alcohol printed on the label as a first indication. - Is There a Relationship Between a Wine's Sweetness and Its Alcohol Level?

  • But the bottle says "brut".
    – Haozhun
    Commented Apr 18, 2021 at 16:07

Some people say “sweet” when they mean good. Like “That car is a sweet ride!” It can be a habit to use certain adjectives like "sweet" so in this context it is confusing. I'm guessing it is unique to this particular person and that educated wine drinkers would not use "sweet" to describe a brut Champagne.

As for alternatives, there are many types of sparkling wines which are more reasonably priced than Champagne. In France, sparkling wines outside the Champagne region are called "Cremant". There is a certain premium associated with Champagne so Cremant's are often more reasonably priced for comparable quality. I'm particularly fond of Lucien Albrecht Cremant d'Alsace Brut Rose. Spanish Cava can also be found as a dry wine and can be really good.

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