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Why is extra dry Champagne called extra dry when in fact it’s sweeter than brut Champagne?

A. Because in French, the term “extra” derives from extraneous, meaning “outside of dryness” or “other than dry”

B. Extra dry Champagne is not sweeter than brut Champagne

C. Because extra dry Champagne was created before brut Champagne

D. Because of a long-forgotten mix-up in the French wine industry in the 1800s

C.

At one time, extra dry Champagne was the driest, but as time went on, newer drier styles of Champagne—including brut—were created. The evolving styles of Champagne began to occur in the early nineteenth century when more and more Champagne firms, hoping to capture new markets and increase sales, positioned Champagne as an aperitif, perfect to begin an evening, rather than a sweet wine to have at the end. First came half-dry Champagnes—called demi-sec. When these proved successful, producers began making sec, or dry, Champagnes (these were still fairly sweet by today’s standards). By the 1840s, the British in particular began to request even drier Champagnes. Producers responded with “extra-dry” (a term in English rather than French) Champagnes made just for the British market. As other countries caught up with the British preference for dry bubbly, the French began to make an even drier version of Champagne—called brut. Which is how brut turns out to be drier than extra-dry. Today, of course there’s an even drier style of Champagne than brut. It’s called “extra brut.”

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