‘Tis the season for a little celebrating and nothing gets a celebration started better than bubbles. Something about how the bubble sparkle in the glass, or how they tickle your nose when you head in for a sip.
Bubbles are great for atmosphere, they set the mood. They are also perfect with those delicious salty, fatty treats we like to have around. From popcorn to caviar, they make a great match. And beyond just appetizers or snacks, they are great with a meal. The acid and bubbles clean your palate between each bite, making every bite taste as good as the first.
Now, bubbles come in many forms. There is Cava and Prosecco, sparkling wine, Champagne…and then there is Crémant. Crémant is the topic for the French #Winophiles this month and we will be taking to twitter on Saturday November 17th at 11 am EST to discuss Crémant. Join us by following the hashtag #Winophiles!
What is Crémant? Well it’s bubbles made in the “methode champenoise” from outside of the Champagne region in France. (So secondary fermentation in the bottle)
The word Crémant means “Creamy”. The term was originally used for a Champagne that was slightly less sparkly, the bubbles were creamier, with a little less pressure in the bottle.
Some of the areas that you will find Crémant in France include: Crémant d’Alsace (Alsace), Crémant de Bourgogne (Burgundy), Crémant de Loire, Crémant de Limoux (Languedoc-Roussillon), Crémant de Bordeaux, Crémant du Jura, Crémant de Savoie and Crémant de Die.
One of the best things about Crémant is the variety of grapes that you might get to try in them. We were only able to easily locate Crémants from Alsace, Burgundy & the Loire. Below is a list of these Crémant regions with the grapes that can be included in them (variety, my friends, is the spice of life!)
Crémant Regions and grape varieties allowed
Crémant d’Alsace (Alsace)
If it’s a rose, it will be 100% pinot noir, if it is not, it can include pinot blanc, pinot gris, riesling, chardonnay, auxerrois or pinot noir. (1/2 of the Crémant in France is made here)
Crémant de Bourgogne (Burgundy)
Most Crémants here use pinot noir and chardonnay (it is Burgundy after all), but they may also use gamay, aligoté, sacy & melon
Crémant de Loire
Primarily these Crémants use chenin blanc, cabernet franc and pinot noir. But the allowed grape varieties include: chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, pineaus d’aunis, and grolleau (looking some of those up!)
Rules for Crémant
Each of the AOCs for Crémant have individual rules but they do have a few that they all adhere to:
- Hand Harvesting
- Not over 100 liters of juice for 150 kg of grapes
- Secondary fermentation in bottle
- Finished wines cannot have a dosage (added sweetness for secondary fermentation) that is over 50g per liter of sugar
- Age 9 months on the lees before being disgorged and held an additional 3 months before going to market
So with all these different grapes from different regions how does it affect how the wine tastes? Well, we rounded up a couple of Crémants and tasted through to see. With 3 Cremant d’Alsace, a Cremant de Loire and a Cremant de Bourgogne we had a little variety.
The Crémant Rosés
Lucien Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace Brut Rosé
This wine was received as a sample
This wine from Lucien Albrecht is 100% Pinot Noir and comes from the house that was one of the three founding members of the Crémant d’Alsace AOC.
Made from free run juice, this wine ages on the lees for 14-16 months. It sits at 12% alcohol and runs around $22.
You can read more about this wine in a previous bit we did on Alsace.
Levert Frères Crémant de Bourgogne Brut Rosé Millésime 2013
This is one of the oldest properties in Burgundy. You will notice the “depuis 1595” on the label. The estate is in the Mercurey appellation in Côte Chalonnaise.
The 2013 Vintage was 80% Pinot Noir and 20% Gamay. (so while I didn’t celebrate Beaujolais day in the normal fashion…I did drink some Gamay!) It spends 24 months on the Lees. It too sits at 12% alcohol and runs around $18.
Deligeroy Brut Rosé Crémant de Loire Cave De Vignerons de Saumur
This wine comes from a cooperative formed back in 1957 in the Loire. They are located in the Saumur appellation on the top of the hill in Saint-Cyr-en-Bourg.
The Deligeroy Brut Rosé is 100% Cabernet Franc grown in soils that include the tufa limestone from which many of the famous Loire castles are built. Vines here are 20-30 years old. This wine sits 12 months in racks before disgorging. Alcohol is 12% and it runs around $18
Tasting and pairing
For this tasting we really wanted to look at the differences in the wines. These are rosés which means you get a bit more “grape” in them from the skin contact. The wines are from different regions and different grape varieties, so we expected there to be significant differences.
When I poured the glasses, the color was the first thing that struck me. The Levert Frères Crémant de Bourgogne was significantly lighter in color than the other two, that light onion skin color. As we went on to taste, that appeared in the glass. This wine had less skin contact and as such was lighter with less distinguishable fruit on the nose or the palate. It did however seem to have a little more acid to it. It ended up being Michael’s favorite in the pairings.
The other two wines, were influenced by their grapes. The Albrecht Crémant d’Alsace had red berry notes as did the Deligeroy Crémant de Loire, but the notes in the Deligeroy were a little deeper, the Cabernet Franc showing through.
As the holiday season is here, we went with a crowd pleasing cheese platter to pair with. We are geeky and tend to one by one, taste and pair each element to see which pairing we like best. Below, you will see the results.
Brie: Any double or triple crème cheese is brilliant with crémant. I stacked a bit of the brie on a cracker and smeared a little of the cherry preserve on top and found this went really well with the Crémant d’Alsace and the Crémant de Loire with their berry notes.
Lobster Paté: I had this lobster paté with Cognac in the cupboard and popped it out to try. I found that the extra richness in the Crémant de Loire really stood up to the richness in the paté and made this an exceptional bite.
Strawberries: The red berry notes in the Crémant d’Alsace really blossomed here.
Blackberries: Again paired best with the Crémant d’Alsace
Proscuitto: This brought out the fruit in all the wines.
Smoked salmon: This salmon was thicker cut and applewood smoked. The smoky flavor was a bit much for most of the wines, but it paired best with the Loire. I think had this been a slightly lighter salmon the pairing would have been better.
Raw vegetables with dip: A suggestions from Wines of Alsace. This is also typical holiday fare with a veggie platter, so we thought this would be a good test! We went with a salmon dip and it was perfect with the wines.
Popcorn: Bubbles and buttery popcorn are always a good bet. (potato chips too!) And they are great affordable snacks to keep everybody happy. This went well, but we also did a pairing with some white Crémant d’Alsace and found the popcorn went better there (more on that later).
Lobster: Well…pink with pink and lobster with butter screams for bubbles. This is maybe a little more decadent than snacks for a holiday party, but…when the guests have gone, treat yourself. Here was where the lack of berry notes in the Crémant de Borgogne came in handy. This wine really sang with the lobster. The other wines were fine, but I found the berry notes a bit of a distraction.
We finished out our evening with apple and cranberry tarts. I always like fruit deserts and the berry and bread notes in all three of the wines paired wonderfully here.
Hopefully you now have some ideas for things to pair with sparkling wines this holiday, whether you are curled up for a quiet evening or feeding a crowd. And reach for a Crémant!
We also did a piece on the two beautiful Crémant d’Alsace white wines that we paired with a simple dinner the night before! You can read up on Crémant d’Alsace perfect for a country picnic (maybe in the living room).
The French #Winophiles
So there is this wonderful group of wine writers who gather monthly to discuss French Wine. We pick a topic and we all taste and pair and write a piece and then we get up (early for me) on the 3rd Saturday of the month to discuss. This month is it Crémant and here are all the amazing pieces that the French #Winophiles have written on the subject this month! Check them all out!
Liz Barrett from What’s In That Bottle is writing “Affordalicious Alsace: Best Bubbles for the Buck”
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” Susannah is also on Twitter @vignetocomm and Insta: @vignetocomms)
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!
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
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”
Kat Wisnosky of Bacchus Travel and Tours, who was our fearless leader and host for the month shares with us Crémant – The Perfect Style of Wine for A Festive Meal