It’s a given among the knowledgeable that even the driest of sparkling wines contains an amount of sugar, however miniscule. In its latest release - Brut Zero, Graham Beck Wines dispenses with the practice of dosage, the topping up of champenoise or Méthode Cap Classique with a sugar-infused blend.
A self-confessed “fanatic” of zero dosage champenoise, Pieter Ferreira, Cellar Master at Graham Beck Wines Robertson, jumped at the chance to create such a wine when the vintage provided grapes of the requisite flavour profile and superior quality.
“Making this style of sparkling wine is a challenge and a risk: there is no margin for error in a zero dosage wine”, Pieter said. “That’s why there are so few of them. It’s an avant-garde style.”
The purpose of dosage in a Méthode Cap Classique is to replace the small amount of wine lost during disgorgement – the forceful expending of yeast cells from the top of the bottle. It’s the sugar content in dosage that determines the category of the wine; zero dosage wines being the driest possible.
Without the addition of sugar, which can be used to balance a blend, the wine is laid bare. The effervescence magnifies the pure and natural flavour – and along with it, any possible faults. For Pieter, the grapes provided by vintage 2005 showed great promise for a no-dosage style; an instinct confirmed when he tasted the wine after secondary fermentation.
The wine was left to lie on the lees, or expended yeast, for six years before it was disgorged, at which point it was topped up only with the cuvee. The resulting wine is a purist’s delight: bone dry, ultra crisp and rich in natural flavour, “more its mineral characters than fruitiness” Pieter says – a feature highly prized by wine enthusiasts.
As a bonus, brut zero, or zero dosage wine is lower in calories than its sugar-imbued counterparts; presenting a great alternative for slimmers and those who enjoy lighter style wines.
Graham Beck’s Brut Zero is a perfect accompaniment to salty, flavoursome foods: sushi and crustacean dishes in particular. It joins the ranks of the very few zero dosage wines – these having been virtually non-existent a decade or so ago; a category growing in popularity among chefs, sommeliers and food enthusiasts.
“It’s hard to believe that a no-dosage wine could present so beautifully,” Pieter says. “I hope to see it encourage interest in this more natural style.”
· Zero-dosage wines have existed for more than 100 years, the first being released at a time when champagnes were made almost exclusively with very high levels of dosage. The first brut wine to enjoy commercial success was released by Madame Louis Pommery in 1874; though brut zero only appeared in the 19th century.
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