What is a “zero-dosage” Champagne?

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Dear Dr. Vinny,

What is a “zero-dosage luxury Champagne”? What's the exact meaning of “zero-dosage”?

—D. Yingwu, China

Dear Yingwu,

Right before bottling a bubbly made in the méthode traditionelle (the “traditional method” of the Champagne region of France), a small amount—think eyedropper size—of what’s called the dosage is added to the bottle. Dosage is simply a sweet wine, though some Champagne houses also add a spirit such as Cognac. How much dosage is added will determine how sweet the final product is—before it’s added, all the sugar in the original wine has been converted to alcohol, and the Champagne will be bracingly dry. But even a sparkler that will end up dry often has a little bit of dosage added to balance out the high acidity, giving the wine more body and complexity.

If no dosage at all is added, the bubbly can be called “zero-dosage” or “brut nature” or “sauvage.” These wines can be aggressively crisp and tart, the sort of thing that brings tears to your eyes. I’ve also seen that “zero-dosage” bubblies are marketed as “sugar free” to the crowd that cares about that sort of thing.

As far as the word “luxury”? That’s just advertising.

—Dr. Vinny

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