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Going easy on the sugar

epicure 31 May 2013
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Grower champagne maker, Alexandre Penet, shares on how he intends to win more drinkers over to his side with his low dosage bubblies.

Grower champagne makers—independent vintners who make wines with grapes from only their estate-owned vineyards —are proud of their speciality in the low dosage champagne game. (Low dosage bubblies, generally those with less than 6 grams of sugar per litre (6g/l), offer a lighter, delicate taste. Champagne houses add dosage or sweet still wine to the bubbly after secondary fermentation to increase sweetness or soften acidic harshness. The common Brut or dry champagne, for example, has less than 12g/l.) These days, their special turf is getting a little smaller: the big boys are jumping onto the bandwagon, introducing one or two low dosage sparklers into their portfolios. In 2011, Billecart-Salmon offered the Extra Brut, a zero dosage (0g/l). Louis Roederer also has a zero dosage bubbly in the pipeline.
“The low dosage bubbly market has been the fastest growing segment in the champagne industry for the past few years,” says Alexandre Penet, XX, fifth generation winemaker of La Maison Penet, a grower champagne producer in Montagne de Reims. Penet makes only Grand Cru low dosage champagnes—nine of them. The warmer weather in recent years has also been beneficial to the production of low dosage champagnes. “You get less acidity in the fruit, so you can afford to add a smaller amount of dosage,” he explains. He believes a low dosage bubbly offers a “focus on the wine’s purity”, where its minimal sugar level does little to mask the nuanced notes of the wine.

Excerpt from June'13 issue of epicure

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