Dosage, what is it?
The amount of sugar in g/l added to sparkling wine after disgorgement, known as liqeuer d’expedition (sending off). The amount depends on: the style required, for example sec, brut, extra-brut; and the age of the wine, as there must be a balance with acidity, which softens with age. So a late disgorged wine, that is one that has spent a prolonged maturation on its lees, will need a lower dosage.
Nominal legal sugar-style levels, where the sugar level is made up of post second fermentation residual sugar + any dosage, are:
< 3g/l Brut zero, Brut natur, or similar terms, where no dosage is added
< 6g/l Extra brut
< 12g/l Brut
12-17g/l Extra sec
> 50g/l Doux
How about low and zero dosage?
I was intrigued by Champagne expert Tom Stevenson’s comments about the apparent relationship between decreasing dosage and increased risk of oxidation …
He commented in Decanter January 2012, page 78, that a ‘lot of high-profile (Champagne) growers have low dosage, and the fault is that they become oxidative’. I found a similar concern expressed by a Roederer spokesman in Wine Business April 2011, so I wrote to Decanter. See the February issue, page 102, for Tom’s full response.
Briefly, he considers a dosage of 6g/l to be the minimum level for graceful ageing, to counter the oxidative impact of disgorgement. Essentially, the sugars are good at screening some aromas, aldehydes for example, more specifically acetaldehyde. Furthermore longevity may be affected by lower dosage. But if oxidation at disgorgement is an issue, surely this could be circumvented or minimised, more, with improved machinery?
Anyway, oxidative notes, like rotten apple or walnuts, can add to complexity, depending on absolute levels, one’s preference and tolerance. So perhaps beware low or zero dosage wines that have some age. Anyway, I look forward to tasting my way through all these variations, and understanding the relationship better – I am about to start the Diploma Sparkling Wine module. I’ll report my own findings here.