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The labelling on bottles of wines is often complicated and confusing. Different countries label things differently, and, of course, in different languages. Some terms listed on wines are legal terms with specific meanings, but others are not legal and their meaning can therefore be ambiguous.

Cuvée and brut are both terms that are often used on Champagne and sparkling wine labels and mean very different things.

What the term Cuvée means

The labelling term Cuvée indicates a specific blend or selection. For example, a blend of different vintages, grape varieties or regions. It could also mean a blend of different vats or barrels from the same vineyard or estate. All Champagne, for example, is a blend. It is usually accompanied with a particular name, e.g., Cuvée Dom Perignon. The term is usually used by winemakers to identify their higher quality wines. However, the term is not legally controlled and therefore not an indication of quality.

What the term Brut means?

Brut, in the context of sparkling wine, means dry. Champagne has various terms on the labels of bottles that are indications of sweetness (see infographic below). A brut Champagne means it is a dry or off-dry Champagne.

Note: Even the driest sparkling wine, Brut Nature contains some sugar (0-3 g/L).

Brut vs extra dry

Merriam Webster dictionary defines brut as ‘extra dry’; however, as outlined above, in Champagne terms it simply means dry on the Champagne dryness scale (see sweetness levels in sparkling wine infographic below), with extra brut meaning extra dry.

Champagne dryness scale / Sweetness levels in Champagne

The EU has labelling terms to denote sweetness levels that must be used for sparkling wines. Many of these labelling terms are similar around the world. They are a good indication of sweetness levels, but the labelling terminology may differ depending on where you live.

The terms ‘brut’ and ‘sec’ mean dry, but as you can see from the infographic below, even sparkling wines on the higher end of the sweetness scale can contain these terms.


Alcohol levels in sparkling wine

The amount of alcohol in a bottle of sparkling wine varies, but, in general, it is around 12%. Most Cava, for example, is 11.5%, but some are 11% and some are 12%.

Compared with still wine, sparkling wine has medium alcohol levels.


How to keep the bubbles in Champagne after opening

In the unlikely event of leftover Champagne, there are some simple tips for how to keep the fizz for longer.

Other common labelling information

  • Vintage – the harvest year of the grapes.
  • Volume – the amount of wine in the bottle. 750 mL or 75 cL is standard.
  • Alcohol – the alcoholic strength of the wine expressed as alcohol by volume (ABV)
  • Old vines – an indication of quality because old vines often produce better quality fruit.
  • Reserve – can indicate a superior quality wine or wine that has been aged for a period of time. Unlike Reserva or Riserva it is not a legal term, so it can also be an indication of very little.
  • Supérieur – indicates a higher degree of alcohol.
  • Estate – wine made using grapes grown on the winemaker’s own land.


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