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Extra Dry vs. Brut: What’s The Difference

You don’t have to be a wine expert to know which wine is best served at different times.

Increase your wine smarts by focusing on two or three sparkling wines, flat wines, and champagnes each month to become fluent in the 5 characteristics of wine – sweetness, acidity, tannin, alcohol, and body.

When it comes to extra dry versus brut wines, it is how much grape sugar has been allowed to convert to alcohol during fermentation that defines these categories.

Wine connoisseurs spend years not only seeing, sniffing, swirling, and sipping, but also learning in great detail about hundreds of grape varieties and tannins.

With enough time and experimentation, you will develop a discriminating palate.

Your wine palate involves both tasting and smelling.

And of course, the purpose of becoming fluent in wine offerings and pairings is not to become a wine snob, but to have fun and impress your friends by being a great host!

Understanding wine characteristics

Developing wine skills doesn’t have to involve knowing each grape and what region they come from.

To better distinguish the difference between a good extra dry vs Brut, you should be familiar with the 5 characteristics that make wine taste, look, and smell different:

  • Acidity – High acidity wines have a light-bodied but tart taste. The higher the acidity, the more the sides of your tongue will tingle and the roof of your mouth will seem rougher.
  • Sweetness – After fermentation, all wines have residual sugar left behind with dry wines containing the least amount of sweetness or sugar.
  • Tannin – The presence of these phenolic compounds adds balance with high tannin wines causing bitterness and dryness to linger in the mouth.
  • Body – Full-bodied wines linger in the mouth and have more complex flavors and a more viscous mouthfeel. These richer wines include Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah.
  • Alcohol – The amount of alcohol content is the biggest impact on taste which can be perceived differently as sweet, bitter, bold, and even spicy.

The best way to find the perfect wine for yourself is to become familiar with how much sweetness, acidity, body, tannin, and alcohol you prefer.

These same characteristics are used when choosing the best Extra Dry vs. Brut to serve before a meal or with appetizers.

What defines an extra dry wine?

Extra dry wines are popular and often top the list at your favorite wine bar.

Expect a taste that is only slightly sweet when you order an extra dry sparkling wine or Champagne extra dry.

Don’t let the term ‘extra dry’ fool you, because there are wines that are definitely dryer (Brut and Extra Brut).

Of the six wine categories, an extra dry would contain 1% to 2% residual sugar.

If you prefer semi-sweet tasting champagne, then extra dry would be perfect. An extra dry sparkling wine would be similar to drinking Champagne. 

Some people mistake the fruitiness of an extra dry with sugar content. But, the sweetness comes from the type of grape selected for the dry wine.

The fruitiness (in a dry wine) doesn’t come from sugar, but from the grapes themselves, giving you different types of fruit depending on the varietal and the winemaker.

American sparkling wines are typically made from a blend of three grapes: Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, and Pinot Meunier.

Food and cheese pairing with Extra Dry Wine

  • Smoked salmon and asparagus
  • Steak and potatoes
  • Fried chicken and macaroni and cheese
  • Parmesan, Asiago, and Cotija cheeses

Characteristics of a Brut?

Brut champagne or sparkling wines are drier than their extra dry counterpart. 

The word Brut is actually French for the word dry. You will often see Champagne with the Brut labeling.

And, while all champagnes are sparkling wines, the only sparkling wine that is labeled with the upper case Champagne is a wine that is made from grapes that are grown and processed in this specific region.

What you’ll notice when drinking Brut is only a subtle difference in body (how heavy or light a wine feels in your mouth) when compared to extra dry, but a more distinct difference in sweetness.

Sugar levels in an extra dry can be as high as 22 grams per liter. But, a Brut sparkling wine is typically very low in sugar with less than 12 grams of residual sugar per liter

If you prefer a bubbly that is very dry and without any perception of sweetness, then Brut champagne is an excellent choice.

Of all champagnes consumed in America, Brut is by far the most popular sparkling wine with many great options on the wine shelves.

Since champagnes have low tannin levels, a Brut will look pale in color.

This wine is light-bodied but it has a bright acidity that is rounded out when the product is aged in cellars for years.

Your taste palate and sense of smell may also detect nutty, floral, or fruity notes. 

How to celebrate with a Brut

Brut is a fantastic choice for a sparkling wine when served at celebrations. From marriage toasts to a New Year’s Eve countdown, Brut offers great a great sipping experience.

The solid structure of a Brut signals luxury and elegance.

If you’re wondering what to serve with a Brut, it depends upon the flavor notes of your chosen bottle. Some Brut champagnes can be warm and spicy, while others are tart and citrusy.

Since Brut is rarely served at the dinner table, here is a surprising list of inexpensive appetizers and snacks that are perfect:

  • Hard cheeses such as Gouda or Parmesan
  • Chips, almonds, and other nuts
  • Any pasta or risotto
  • Tart or lemony desserts

A lovely Brut makes for a great wine spritzer, especially when you’ve already added plenty of sweetness like cherries, citrus fruit, or sodas like ginger ale or lemon-lime soda.

Brut vs Extra Dry Wine

  • The sugar content in Extra Dry Wine can be up to 2% of its total content versus 1.5% max for Brut
  • While a Brut will taste crisper due to its dryness, and Extra Dry will have a richer taste
  • Extra Dry wines are excellent with or after dinner, while Brut wines are best before dinner or with appetizers
  • Formal occasions call for a Brut, while a more festive activity will appreciate the lighter and fruitier Extra Dry.

Your ability to distinguish between a Brut vs Extra Dry will increase as your taste buds learn to notice the subtle differences in sweetness or tartness.

An extra dry will have more pronounced notes of fruitiness while a Brut will have a crisp acidity and a distinct dryness.

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