Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Last Night's Tipple

Continuing on my tour of Gruet sparkling wines, we come to the NV Demi-Sec. You will recall that the last step in Champagne and méthode Champenoise sparkling wine production is to add a small amount of sugar and base wine called the dosage to the wine. The amount of sugar added determines the labeling of the sparkling wine. The most common sweetness level is brut. Brut sparkling wine is not completely dry, although it may seem like that when it is being drunk. Acidity and coldness both dull the tongue's perception of sweetness, and sparkling wine is both highly acidic (from all the carbonation) and meant to be served well-chilled. If you warmed brut sparkling wine up and let the carbonation escape, it would taste much sweeter. Slightly sweeter than brut is extra dry (the sweetness level of Moët et Chandon's White Star, the best-selling Champagne in the world), and a couple of notches sweeter than extra dry is demi-sec.

I've never had demi-sec sparkling wine, partly because it's not the most common thing in the world and partly because a lingering anti-sweet prejudice born of an ill-informed snobbery. But in theory it should work well because sparkling wine has more than enough acidity to balance the sweetness. And what the heck? Since I'm trying all of the Gruet sparkling wines available to me, why not this one, too? I expected something with honeyed, unctuous sweetness, but that's not what I got. Demi-sec is really, well, off-dry rather than sweet. The label doesn't lie. There is perceptible sweetness, but it's not overpowering. So I guess that you could call it balanced, but I would really rather have something either sweeter or something drier. This is really neither fish nor fowl.

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