The term doux refers to the sweetest of all champagnes. At the mention of sweet champagne, many will find themselves cringing. People are more accustomed to the dry end of the spectrum when it comes to champagne – brut, extra brut, brut nature. These are pretty common terms when it comes to champagne.
But sweet champagne is also very enjoyable. In fact, all champagne can be enjoyable but it also depends on one’s preference and palate. There is a wide range of flavour profiles in doux champagne so how do you actually choose which one is best for you?
Where did sweet champagne come from?
Sugar has been a normal part of champagne for centuries. As the public’s palate changed and trends moved, it is now more common to find brut champagne rather than doux. However, throughout the 18th and 19th centuries, sweet champagne was the in thing and winemakers followed that trend. In fact, it was the drink of choice for tsars, royals and rulers.
Louis XIV and Napoleon Bonaparte were among the more famous rulers that had a weakness for champagne. The sweetest of champagnes was favoured by Tsar Alexander II and the Russian royal family. Their supply of sweet champagne came from Madame Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin Clicquot.
Madame Clicquot is also known as the Grande Dame of Champagne. She took on her husband’s wine business when she was widowed at 27 years old. A visionary, Madame Clicquot also supplied the English with the sweet bubbly but Englishmen preferred brut styles of champagne more.
Over the decades, brut champagne has become more and more popular and eventually ended up as the ‘better’ champagne. Although bottles of champagne doux are now harder to find, it is still possible and medium-sweet (demi-secs) is still widely available.
When should I drink sweet champagne?
There’s always a good time and place for a sweeter style of champagne. Whether it is to taste a little bit of history or to just enjoy it, the sweet, effervescent profile is a great match with sweets and pastry and plays a complex counterpoint for rich and salty food like cheese.
It’s a celebratory drink! It has a festive feel to it so holidays are always a good time to pop a bottle of doux champagne. If you win a championship, drink that sweet champagne! 3
How is sweet champagne produced?
Doux champagne is actually easier to make than dry champagne. However, as doux styles of champagne are increasingly rare, due to the world moving on to prefer brut champagne, the cost remains up there with the rest of it.
Champagne is produced using the méthode traditionnelle or traditional method. It has to undergo two fermentations and on the second round, yeast is added into the bottles. From here, the sugar from the fruit juice turns into alcohol. Carbon dioxide is produced and voila! You get bubbles!
Once the dead yeast is disgorged, a liquid called the liqueur d’expédition or expedition liqueur tops off the bottle before it’s resealed to help preserve the bottle of bubbly. It is this liquid, which may contain white wine and sometimes sugar that determines whether the wine will be dry or sweet. It all depends on the producer and aging also plays a role in it.
Now remember that champagne can only be called champagne when it is produced in the northeastern region of France called champagne. If sparkling wine is produced in other parts of the world, the sweetness will still be considered as sec, demi-sec or doux.
This brings us to our next point.
Doux, demi-sec and sec
Doux is at the end of the spectrum when it comes to sweet champagne. However, in between, there are slightly less sweet styles. Still classified as a sweet champagne, these less sweet styles are called sec and demi sec champagne.
This is where it can get rather confusing but bear with us.
Difference in terminology
Demi sec and sec, when directly translated, means it is half dry (demi sec) and dry (sec) respectively. However, this direct translation can be interpreted in two ways – half dry or dry on the sweet side or half dry or dry on the dry side?
Rest assured that in the case of champagne, when you see the words demi sec and sec, it is on the sweet side. These bubbly wines are not drier than brut champagne.
Amount of sugar
The amount of sugar per litre determines the sweetness of the champagne.
- Sec – between 17 and 32 grams of sugar per litre
- Demi-sec – between 32 and 50 grams of sugar per litre
- Doux – more than 50 grams of sugar per litre
Obviously doux is the sweetest. However, if you are not a seasoned drinker, the demi-sec is enough for you to think that the champagne is quite sweet already and the sec style of champagne has obvious fruity notes.
Sweet champagne food pairing
When it comes to sweet champagne, be it on whichever spectrum of sweetness (sec, demi-sec or doux), it is usually paired with a great dessert.
As champagne is light and delicate, a slightly salty food pairing also goes well together. Food like spicy nuts, pears, blue cheese and walnut salads will taste amazing on the palate because of the salty-sweet contrast.
Veuve Clicquot Champagne
Veuve Clicquot is a champagne house based in Reims. The brand is synonymous with luxury because of the prestige it brings. Sold in fine wine catalogs and liquor stores and popular in pop culture, it is one of the most well-known champagnes on the market. Without Veuve Clicquot, champagne probably would not be what it is today.
Founded by Phillippe Clicquot-Muiron in 1772, his wife, Barbe-Nicole Ponsardin was the actual Veuve Clicquot. Seven years after she married the Veuve Clicquot heir, Francois. She was the first woman to run a champagne house.
This champagne house is credited with being the pioneers of many milestones when it comes to champagne including creating the first known vintage champagne in 1810, to inventing the riddling rack (allows for a more efficient process of disgorgement before corking) that is still used around the world today to being one of the first producers of rose.
Seeing as it has been around for centuries and a pioneer of many things that make champagne, champagne, the iconic Veuve Clicquot champagne was around when sweet champagne was the trendiest thing in town. Remember how we mentioned that tsars, rulers and royals absolutely adored sweet champagne? Well, Veuve Clicquot was their major supplier.
Now, although sweet champagne has pretty much fallen out of favour with the public, they have continually produced one of the best demi-sec champagnes in the market. In almost all champagne reviews, the iconic sweet champagne brand is at the top of the list.
How to choose a sweet champagne
It can be rather overwhelming when you step into a store and find a whole range of bottles staring back at you. It is best that you know the types of champagne and what the words on the label mean for a start.
Then, identify your sweet tooth. Depending on your personal preferences, you can choose sec, demi-sec or doux. Sugar is added to all champagne to help level out acidity in the bubbly. So if you already know what you will be eating, you can pair it. Experts recommend that you match the dish by choosing a sweet champagne for dessert or a more acidic variety for other types of food.
If it is just for fun or as a celebration, the choice of sweet champagne is entirely up to you.
Buy it! If it is not a bottle that you will normally buy, you never know, you may find yourself loving it.
Another option is to join a wine club or a champagne club like the Fizz Champagne Club. You can let the sommelier know what your personal preferences are when it comes to sweet champagne and he will find the right fit for you. The champagne will be delivered right to your doorstep!
Sweet champagne cocktails
The classic mimosa cocktail can be made with sweet champagne. Sometimes brut or extra brut champagne is used which means that the mimosa is not sweet but if you like it sweeter, by all means, go sweet with demi-sec or sec. If you doux champagne for a mimosa, you will end up with basically a soda pop.
Your champagne and orange juice should be cold. First, you add the bubbly to your glass and allow it to bubble up. Then you add the orange juice. Never stir the both of it together as it will only flatten the cocktail.
Simple and absolutely delicious!
Not everyone will love sweet champagne as brut has set itself as the golden standard for bubbly. Although it was popular almost a century ago, nowadays, doux can be rather hard to come by though other levels of sweet champagne like demi-sec and sec are still available. As a champagne drinker, you should definitely try a bottle or two. Even if you do not like sweet champagne, at least you’ll know!