Dosage is the technical term for the addition of liqueur de dosage, also known as liqueur d'expédition. The liqueur is a mixture of the owners wine with cane sugar or beet sugar. The exact mixture is a closely guarded secret. The dosage liqueur contains generally 500-750gt of sugar per litre.
In the past dosage was used to balance out the acidity. Today as the climate gets warmer and the grapes harvested are riper, less dosage is required.
Dosage in my opinion does a number of things.
1. Brings roundness and harmony to a champagne.
2. Plays a crucial role for longer ageing of champagne.
3. The interaction of the dosage with the protiens released into the champagne through the Autolyse induces the malliard reaction. This gives champagnes it special aromas.
4. Adds depth and textural complexity to a champagne.
Below are the numerical terms which determine how a champagne is categorised.
:• douxmore than 50 grams of sugar per litre
• demi-sec 32-50 grams of sugar per litre• sec17-32 grams of sugar per litre • extra dry12-17 grams of sugar per litre
• brutless than 12 grams of sugar per litre
• extra brutless than 6 grams of sugar per litre
• brut nature, pas dosé or dosage zéro less than 3 grams of sugar per litre and no added sugar.
This gives the impression that champagnes sweetness is quantifiable. Nothing could be less true. The ripeness at which the grapes are harvested play a crucial role in deciding the dosage. Today we see more and more champagnes with no dosage. Agrapart's Venus is one of the best examples. With the Venus the grapes are harvested with a high degree of ripeness which gives the champagne enough depth and substance. In such a case no dosage is needed.
With the likes of Cristal and Krug there exist enough evidence that they can be aged for thirty to forty years. With non dosage champagnes there is at the moment no track record. Best estimates are ten to fifteen years after degorgement.
There is a lot of misunderstandings concerning dosage.
The main one being dosage hinders the expression of terroir and champagne with little or no dosage are purer in taste. I would concur with Peter Leim in saying dosage is like salt. The right amount enhances, to little leads to a lack of expression and too much is unpalatable.
The terroir arguement is difficult to support as firstly one would have to define exactly what terroir is and secondly champagne is a man made product which demands a great understanding of the craft and dosage is part of this craft. To leave out the dosage is in my opinion to leave a work unfinished.
Low dosage or non dosaged champagnes from grapes harvested without enough ripeness have a taste similiar to tonic water. The purist might mistake this for minerality. I find these champagnes lack balance, depth and harmony.
The climate warming up is obviously changing the dynamics with dosage. Dosage is a complicated subject matter which cannot be defined in tables. The only real way forward is to taste and to discover what one enjoys .