9 best low-sugar sparkling wines
Trying to cut down on the sugar intake, but not the fun? This is the fizz you need to know about
Sin-free booze has certainly been in the spotlight of late – be it vegan, low-alcohol or, with Fairtrade Fortnight (26 February – 11 March) just around the corner, ethically produced. So, we wanted to know if it was possible to still indulge in a little fizz without completely ruining the diet.
That’s where these sugar-free champagnes, proseccos and cavas come into play. Confusingly, this niche collection of bone-dry vinos can go by a few different names. “Zero dosage”, “brut nature” and “pas dose” will all contain less than 3g of residual sugar per litre, which leaves very little to hide behind in terms of flavour. While some can be particularly great as an aperitif or with seafood – crisp, refreshing and with just the right level of mouth-watering acidity – others can be very harsh indeed. Aside from these, it’s also worth looking out for styles labelled extra brut, which will contain a maximum of 6g of sugar. Still a very dry style, you’ll often find a bit more complexity in these and, compared with the sugar in a regular brut (around 9-12g), you’ll still have calories to spare.
Helen Stones from The Fizz Company, a wine importer and wholesaler, explains how these styles are able to shun the sugar: “At the end of the champagne-making process, sediment is removed, leaving a few missing millilitres in the bottle that must be topped up.
“In brut champagnes and sparkling wines, such as cava, the missing millilitres are topped up with a mix of sugar and wine. When skinny cava or champagne is ‘finished’ only wine is added, saving around two teaspoons of sugar per bottle.
“This may not sound a lot but, over the months, with every extra teaspoon of sugar or every extra biscuit, there is a price to be paid when we step on the scales.”
Some say that these low-sugar styles are best drunk while young – so with that in mind, the team at Crummbs got straight to work to sort the sparklers from the ones that left them feeling flat.
Special Cava Pinot Noir Brut Nature, 12%: £12.99, The Fizz Company
From the quirkily named winery 1+1=3 (it’s run by two brothers-in-law who say that together they are better than just two), this is made in exactly the same was as champagne, using the prestigious pinot noir grapes. You should be able to taste clear red fruit, balanced with a creamy nuttiness. Expect soft bubbles and a long finish. Suitable for both vegetarians and vegans, it won a silver medal last year at the International Wine Challenge awards.
Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut, 12%: £49.99, Ocado
The well-known champagne house is something of a pioneer in the brut nature category, calling its version by yet another name: ultra brut. Made from a blend of very ripe chardonnay and pinot noir grapes, without any added sugar, it’s then aged for a minimum of six years before it reaches perfect maturity. Crisp, fruity and fresh, you’ll find fine bubbles and a lasting finish. We enjoyed ours with crunchy crudities but it would also be excellent with sushi or ceviche.
Champagne Eric Rodez Dosage Zéro Grand Cru, 12%: £50, Berry Brothers
Thanks to the high percentage (70 per cent) of pinot noir grapes in this blend, you can expect creamy red fruit flavour cutting through the expected acidity. Not only is Eric Rodez a highly regarded biodynamic wine producer, he also happens to be the mayor of Ambonnay in northeastern France, where the wine is created. Fresh yet with a complex long finish, this makes for an extremely elegant aperitif.
Antica Fratta Franciacorta Brut, 13%: £23, Dolce Terra
Clocking in with just 4.6g of residual sugar per litre, this is a delightfully fresh yet full-bodied example of a great franciacorta. Despite being produced in the DOCG region of Lombardy, northern Italy, the way franciacorta is made has more in common with champagne then prosecco. Using the prestigious chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot blanco grapes, which are harvested by hand, it’s then left to mature for a minimum of 18 months, resulting in its complex, biscuity characteristic.
Thomson & Scott Skinny Prosecco, 11%: £17, Organic Wine Club
Organic, vegan and containing about half the sugar of a regular bottle of prosecco, this wine comes from a pioneering brand that has taken the UK by storm. Compelled by her love of champagne and raised on a vegetarian, sugar-free diet, Amanda Thomson wanted to create a portfolio of sparkling wines, cutting the sugar where it wasn’t needed. The result is this clean, fresh prosecco with notes of honey, crisp apple and ripe lemons. It might be a little more expensive than some supermarket prosecco, but after tasting you can see why.
Pol Roger Pure, Extra Brut, 12.5%: £47.50, Ocado
This non-vintage champagne sticks to the winning blend of chardonnay, pinot noir and pinot meunier grapes, which are left to age a little longer than most to allow for a softness to develop. Pairing well with shellfish, this is an elegant, crisp and refreshing drop that is balanced with a touch of honey. Interesting fact: it’s been reported that both Winston Churchill and Phillip Schofield are counted among fans (past and present) of the Pol Roger champagne range.
Slimline Wine Super Sparkling White 10.5%: £21.98 (case of two), Slimline Wine
Created in Piedmont, northwestern Italy, this sparkling white is a blend of pinot noir, chardonnay and pinot grigio grapes. The producers use a “secret process” during the second fermentation, whereby all of the sugar (even that which is found naturally in grapes) is removed by yeast. Aside from boasting no sugar, it also contains no carbs, and clocks in at around 400 calories for the entire bottle. Crisp and light, we think it’s a switch worth making if you’re trying to watch your weight. There’s also a white, pink and red in the range too.
Ar Lenoble Dosage Zero Champagne 12.5%: £32.95, The Whisky Exchange
With zero grams of residual sugar, this bone-dry white has a delicious minerality, transporting us to sunnier climes. Notes of ripe peach and apricot beautifully balance the acidity, resulting in an excellent-value champagne. Try pairing this delicate, fresh French style with simply prepared shellfish.
Louis Roederer Brut Nature 2009 Champagne with Philippe Starck, 12%: £70.15, The Whisky Exchange
One of the only vintage low-sugar options we could find, designer Philippe Starck was involved in both the winemaking and design process of this modern Louis Roederer style. Elegant, light and creamy, the three grapes (pinot noir, pinot meunier and chardonnay) are unusually all harvested on the same day and pressed together. Yellow in colour, with the finest bubbles, we tasted honeysuckle, toasted nuts and zesty citrus.
The verdict: low-sugar wines
If you’re new to this style of bone-dry wine, we’d suggest starting with the excellent-value cava from 1+1=3 – serve it as a fun aperitif on a hot summer’s day. Fan of prosecco? Switch things up and try the Italian Franciacorta for something a little different. However, if you have a bit more to spend both Eric Rodez Dosage Zéro and Laurent-Perrier Ultra Brut are sure to impress with their elegant complexity.
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