It was our first trip to Bourgogne that turned me on to crémant and really got me thinking about this bubbly wine from France. Our little inn situated in a hamlet outside Beane was near Veuve Ambal and the sight of the words Crémant de Bourgogne on the big tank-like shape of the building were so eye-catching, so declarative.
I remember driving past and considering the implications, the meaning of sparkling wine in this category—I thought that people unfamiliar with the term would likely be confused by it, English speakers at least, inclined to think of some other product, not necessarily wine.
And I do think it’s true, that unless one is French or a regular drinker of French wine, crémant escapes many people. Readers of this blog, no doubt, dig crémant and get it. But think of your extended family gathered around the Thanksgiving table. Upon pulling out a bottle of crémant there would be at least one person that would call it Champagne, and likely more than a singleton.
Unfamiliarity with crémant, a wine made with generally high standards, at a reasonably low price point, seems to be the only reason why a person wouldn’t choose to drink and serve it regularly.
My challenge to you is this: this holiday season open at least one bottle of crémant and share it with a friend or family member.
“Right now things are changing and crémant represents the smart choice,” said Bastien Lalauze, winemaker and estate manager of Château Martinolles, a Limoux-based property that produces a portfolio of crémant.
Eight French regions have achieved an appellation to produce crémant. Over half of crémant is produced in Alsace; the rest comes from Bourgogne (Burgundy), Limoux, the Loire, Jura, Savoie, Die and Bordeaux.
Grapes for crémant must be handpicked and have strict production rules overseen by the French government, including minimum aging standards.
Despite crafting consistency, crémant allows for a range of flavor styles evoked from varietals from each region – these express terroir, typicity, and the traditions of the places where they are grown.
From my USA Today article, found here.
Here’s how it’s made, from the same story:
The science behind the bubbles is the same as in Champagne. After the initial fermentation, the winemaker selects a blend which is bottled with a touch of live yeasts and sugars (a solution called tirage) that stimulate a second fermentation inside the closed bottle. The second fermentation is the lively hallmark of the process – the yeasts eat the sugars and release carbon dioxide (the bubbly component) and the yeast community dies off.
The wine then ages a minimum of nine months in the bottle, gathering texture and flavor from the yeast cells which are called lees. Through the riddling process the winemaker disgorges the spent yeast cells and also may add a touch of sugar, a process called dosage.
Crémant Wines to Try
Cremant d’Alsace wines are picked early, capturing freshness and acidity that presents with vitality in the finished wine which is cleansing, crisp, aromatic and vibrant. Principal grapes are Pinot Blanc, Pinot Gris, Pinot Noir, Riesling or Chardonnay. These wines come in white or rosé shades and fall under their own AOP. Prices are reasonable for these wines, but quality is paramount. Truly a gem in France’s wine crown, expect to be impressed and faithful.
From Fascinating Crémant d’Alsace, found here. Here are a few to try:
Klipfel NV Brut Sparkling Crémant d’Alsace: 50% Chardonnay and 50% Pinot Blanc ($16)
René Muré NV Crémant d’Alsace: 35% Pinot Blanc and Pinot Auxerrois, 25% Riesling, 35% Pinot Gris and 5% Pinot Noir ($22)
Lucien Albrecht NV Brut Crémant d’Alsace: 50% Pinot Blanc, 50% Auxerrois ($23)
Also a favorite of mine: Winemaker Rendezvous: Nicolas Laugner of Domaine Allimant-Laugner
Like Champage, crémant is produced using the methode traditionelle, but comes from many regions across France. Often a fraction of Champagne prices, these sparkling wines exhibit value and taste for lovers of French wines.
Try bottles from famed regions Bourgogne and Loire Valley:
Prosper Maufoux NV Cremant de Bourgogne Blanc: 40% Chardonnay; 40%
Pinot Noir and 20% Gamay ($20)
Prosper Maufoux NV Cremant de Bourgogne Rosé: 50% Pinot Noir,
30% Chardonnay and 20% Gamay ($20)
Marcel Martin NV Crémant de Loire: 80% Chenin Blanc, 15% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Chardonnay ($27)
Not-quite Crémant Wines to Try
Crémant wines have, like all French wines, certain appellation restrictions. Not all regions have an appellation for crémant or producers there make bubbles outside of the requirements. That being said here are two wines made in the traditional method, however, they can’t claim the crémant title. Still (because I’m the editor and the author here at L’Occasion) I think these are worthy wines for your consideration and they put French sparkling wine into perspective:
François Montand NV Brut Blanc de Blancs: Colombard, Ugni Blanc, Chardonnay. This blend from a Jura producer is outside of the traditional Jura crémant blend and some of the fruit comes from Gascony, but it is made in the traditional method. What an exceptional value. ($15)
Figuière Atmosphère Rosé Extra-Brut, Méthode Traditionelle 2016: 50% Grenache, 50% Cinsault. Provence doesn’t have an appellation for sparkling wine, so this isn’t technically called crémant…however, it’s made in the traditional method with fruit from La Londe-les-Maures very near to the Mediterranean Sea. ($32)
The French Winophiles
This topic has gained the attention of the French Winophiles and we’ll be chatting on Twitter this Saturday, November 17th, 2018 at 10am central. Look for our hashtag. Please do read and share the stories that accompany this chat.
Thanks to our host Kat at Bacchus Travel and Tours!
Liz Barrett from What’s In That Bottle is writing “Affordalicious Alsace: Best Bubbles for the Buck”
You are reading L’Occasion, “A Festival of French Crémant”
Robin Renken from Crushed Grape Chronicles will publish “A Sparkling Rosé by any other name…just might be a Crémant”
Camilla Mann will talk about a tasting pairing, Lingcod, Legumes, and Domaine Mittnacht Frères Crémant d’Alsace on her blog Culinary Adventures with Cam.
Susannah Gold from avivinare.com will share her post “French Cremant – Perfect Sparklers for the Holiday Season”
Martin Redmond will be “Elevating Weeknight Fare with Cremant d’Alsace” at the Enofylz Wine Blog
Nicole Ruiz Hudson’s post on SommsTable.com will be “Crémants for Going Out and Staying In”
Wendy Klik of A Day in the Life on the Farm is writing “Rustic Elegance; Fall Vegetable Soup paired with Cremant” which sounds perfect for Thanksgiving!
Jane Niemeyer will teach us “How to Pair Crémant d’Alsace and Food” at alwaysravenous.com
Payal Vora’s post at Keep the Peas will be called “Crémant d’Alsace: More Than Just A Sparkling Wine”
Lauren Walsh from The Swirling Dervish will “Add a Little Sparkle to Your Holiday with Crémant d’Alsace”.
Jeff Burrows will be pairing “Elegant Crémant de Bourgogne Served with Lobster Two Ways” at foodwineclick.com
Gwendolyn Alley from winepredator.com is going to be looking at Crémants from a variety of regions in her post this weekend.
David Crowley from cookingchatfood.com will be discussing the “Best Food Pairings for Crémant d’Alsace”
Rupal Shankar the Syrah Queen will be giving us “Five Reasons to Drink Crémant d’Alsace this Holiday Season”
Neil will be joining us from Eat, Live, Travel, Write with a post entitled “Champagne taste but not a Champagne budget? An exploration of France’s Crémant wines”